|FROM:||Jo Lynne DeMary
Superintendent of Public Instruction
|SUBJECT:||Uniform Policy Statement for Free and Reduced Price Meals for 2001-2002 School Year|
Federal regulations governing the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program require each school division to submit an annual Uniform Policy Statement for Free and Reduced Price Meals to the Department of Education for approval.
The enclosed prototype Policy Statement for Free and Reduced Price Meals, attachments, and instructions for completion will also be sent, separately, to each division's School Nutrition Program director or contact person. The instructions and attachments must be followed carefully.
Two copies of the Policy Statement and all attachments, with original signatures on the required documents, must be submitted to the Department of Education, School Nutrition Programs office, for approval by July 1, 2001. An approved copy will be returned to the school division. A copy of the approved Uniform Policy Statement must be on file at each of the division's participating schools/units. Federal reimbursement for meals for the school year 2001-2002 cannot be paid to any school division without an approved Policy Statement. Changes to the prototype and attachments must be requested in writing and must be approved by the Department of Educationís School Nutrition Programs office before implementation. After the Uniform Policy Statement is approved, any changes that may occur during the school year must also be submitted in writing and approved before implementation.
Again this year, school divisions have the option of using the Direct Certification Program to qualify children for free meals if they receive Food Stamps or Virginia Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). School divisions may request permission to implement the Direct Certification program by following the instructions for Attachment H of the Policy Statement. Attachment H must include a detailed description of how the school division will implement Direct Certification. This program greatly reduces the paper work that must be handled and maximizes access to the School Nutrition Program.
School divisions granted permission to implement Direct Certification will receive a data file (a computer disk) or a printed spreadsheet of the names of school-age children within the demographic area of the school division who receive Food Stamps or Virginia Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This information is made available to the Department of Education through cooperation with the Virginia Department of Social Services. Students whose names are on the data file provided by the Department of Education and who are approved for free meals through Direct Certification do not have to submit an application for meal benefits. Families receiving Food Stamps or VA TANF, and whose names are not on the file provided by the Department of Education, are required to complete an application for meal benefits. The data file or list may only be used through October 31, 2001.
There are some changes this year to the Department's previous direction to local school divisions regarding the release of names of children eligible for free or reduced price meals for purposes other than determining eligibility. Recent amendments to and legal clarification of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act now allow limited disclosure of the information about a studentís eligibility for free or reduced price meals. There are very specific guidelines and constraints about sharing this confidential information as outlined in Superintendent's Regulatory Memo No. 3, "Confidentiality of Studentsí Eligibility for Free or Reduced Price School Meal Benefits." It describes the requirements for protecting the confidentiality of a studentís eligibility for free or reduced price meals, the specific authorizations for the limited disclosure of this information without parental consent, and the legal penalties for unauthorized release of this information.
The federal statute and the Department's policy do not intend that programs or individuals should have unlimited access to free and reduced price eligibility information.
No other programs, activities, individuals, or agencies except as authorized may have access to a student's eligibility without the written permission of parents or guardians.
A student's eligibility for free or reduced price meals, meal codes, and/or data may not be stored or used in any computerized file or data base unless the information and/or data field is in a protected file requiring the use of a controlled password to access the information. This file may be accessed only by the determination officials, persons who issue benefits, or those authorized by federal regulations.
To assist school divisions in obtaining parental consent to release free or reduced price eligibility, a paragraph titled "Other Benefits" is included on the meal application. The School Division must identify the specific programs/services for which the eligibility information would be used. Parents and/or guardians may then identify the programs, by checking the appropriate box, for which they would permit the release of the information contained in the application.
Please ensure that your division's School Nutrition Program director or contact person complies with this regulatory information by the required deadlines. For further information or assistance in completing the attachments, please contact the school nutrition specialist assigned to your division or Catherine Digilio Grimes, director of School Nutrition Programs, at (804) 225-2074.
Authority Statement: U.S. Department of Agriculture Regulations (7 CFR Part 245)