COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

P.O. BOX 2120

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA 23218-2120

SUPTS. MEMO NO. 7

September 5, 2008

REGULATORY

TO:

Division Superintendents

 

FROM:

Billy K. Cannaday, Jr.

Superintendent of Public Instruction

 

SUBJECT:

Automatic Eligibility for Free Meal Benefits Extended to All Children Enrolled in Head Start

 

The Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-134) amends sections of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (NSLA) to extend automatic eligibility for free meal benefits to all children enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start. Previously, only those children who were income eligible for Head Start were considered automatically eligible for free meals in the school nutrition programs. This change allows any child enrolled in Head Start or Early Head Start to be automatically eligible for free meals without further application or eligibility determination.

 

All children enrolled in Head Start, regardless of household income level, are considered automatically eligible for free meals in the USDA meal programs in participating Virginia schools effective with the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year. Automatic eligibility for free meals also applies to participants in the Early Head Start program, a federally-funded child development program that provides services to low-income infants, toddlers, and in some instances pregnant women, which has the same income eligibility criteria as Head Start. Prospective mothers must be enrolled in Early Head Start and be eligible to receive school meals through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs to establish automatic eligibility.

 

Children enrolled in the Head Start or Early Head Start programs are considered automatically eligible for free meal benefits effective with the first day of the 2008-2009 school year. This eligibility is retroactive to the first day of the 2008-2009 school year in divisions where school started before this memo was posted. The school nutrition program approving official must obtain a listing of enrolled children from the Head Start or Early Head Start program coordinator in order to determine these children as free eligible. Documentation of enrollment must be kept up-to-date and on file with the school division's meal eligibility records. Head Start and Early Head Start students considered free eligible due to their enrollment in the programs should be treated as directly certified students for the purposes of eligibility determination and verification in the USDA meal programs.

 

Meals served to children enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start programs in schools that participate in the USDA meal programs may be claimed in the free category. Reimbursement will be paid at the free rate for meals that: meet reimbursable meal requirements; are served to eligible children; are documented at the point of service; and, are claimed by the school nutrition program in the monthly claim for reimbursement.

 

Children enrolled in the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) are not automatically eligible for free meals since the eligibility criteria for the VPI are different from that of the Head Start program. Applications for meal benefits must be used to determine free or reduced-price meal eligibility for these children. Children enrolled in the VPI without an approved free or reduced price meal application on file must be considered full price eligible and claimed as such.

 

Questions regarding automatic free meal eligibility for students enrolled in Head Start or Early Head Start should be directed to the school nutrition program specialist assigned to the division, or to Catherine Digilio Grimes, director of school nutrition programs, at (804) 225-2074 or by e-mail at catherine.digilio-grimes@doe.virginia.gov.

 

 

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