Superintendent’s Memo #143-12

State seal, Commonwealth of Virginia

COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA
Department of Education

June 1, 2012

TO:  Division Superintendents

FROM:  Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT:  Annual Agreement to Participate in the School Nutrition Programs for 2012-2013

The School Nutrition Programs Web-based system (SNPWeb) will be available for data entry of the 2012-2013 annual agreement beginning Monday, June 4, 2012.  The Annual Agreement to Participate in the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Special Milk, and Afterschool Snack Programs must be submitted to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) no later than July 1, 2012.

Federal regulations require each school division to enter into an agreement with the Virginia Department of Education annually in order to participate in these school nutrition programs.  The agreement is created and submitted using the SNPWeb system.  The division superintendent is the legal signature authority required to sign the agreement and is the individual responsible for compliance with all regulations governing the school nutrition programs.

School divisions that contract with a food service management company (FSMC) for the operation of their school nutrition programs may not delegate this authority to any employee of the food service management company.  Federal regulations require that the school division “…retain signature authority on the State agency-school food authority agreement, free and reduced price meal applications, and all claims.” (7 CFR 210.16 (a) (5))

In conjunction with the SNPWeb online agreement, the Annual Agreement to Participate (Agreement) document must be downloaded and printed from the “Online Forms” section of SNPWeb.  Two copies of the Agreement, with original signatures of the division superintendent, must be returned to VDOE by July 1, 2012, along with any other supporting documents that require VDOE review and approval.  A copy of the annual agreement packet (Agreement and supporting documents), approved and signed by VDOE, will be returned to the school division.  This signed document must be maintained on file in the school division and must be readily accessible during federal or state reviews.  Federal reimbursement for school nutrition programs cannot be paid for school year 2012-2013 until the annual agreement is fully executed and approved by VDOE.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA) made significant changes in the laws and regulations that govern the school nutrition programs.  Many of these changes have been or will be communicated under separate correspondence and, as appropriate, incorporated into the Agreement and the SNPWeb application.

Updates to Prototype Meal Application, Letters, and Forms
The VDOE prototype meal application, letters, and forms have been updated for SY 2012-2013.  The updated prototype forms will be available for download from the “Online Forms” section of SNPWeb.  School divisions electing not to use the VDOE prototypes must revise their locally customized forms to reflect these changes.  Although there have been no substantive changes to these prototype documents, all school divisions must carefully review their customized documents to make sure they accurately reflect the VDOE prototypes.  As a reminder, the collection of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) case numbers for each student in the household is eliminated; only the last four digits of the social security number (SSN) of the adult who signs the application is required; and the income eligibility guidelines is required to be published on the Letter to Households and the media release.

Duration of Eligibility for Meal Benefits   
A child’s eligibility is in effect from the date of eligibility for the current school year and up to 30 operating days in the subsequent school year.  The USDA Eligibility Guidance Manual was updated in October 2011.  A printed copy was sent to all school nutrition contacts.  All previous editions are obsolete and should be discarded.  An electronic copy can be found on the USDA Web site at: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/guidance/EliMan.pdf.

Temporary Approvals of Meal Applications 
Temporary approval of an application is no longer valid because of the yearlong eligibility.  Zero income households must be approved for free meal eligibility for the school year plus up to the 30-day carry-over, if the application correctly indicates no income.

Initial Carry-over of Previous Year’s Eligibility
Federal regulations require a student’s documented eligibility for free or reduced price meals in the preceding school year to be carried over into the new school year to ensure access to program benefits while current eligibility determinations are made.  The carry-over of a student’s previous school year eligibility shall be valid for the first 30 operating days of the new school year.  This applies to direct certification, categorical determinations, and income applications.  A new eligibility determination in the current year supersedes the carry-over eligibility.  Eligibility carried over from the previous year must be terminated on the 31st operating day.  All students without an approved new school year eligibility determination on file must revert to paid status on the 31st operating day.

Extending Categorical Eligibility for Free Meals
Categorical eligibility for free meals that is determined using a case number for SNAP or TANF applies to all children living in the household.  Whether determined through direct certification or the meal application, this categorical eligibility for free meals must be extended to all students in the household, as defined in 7 CFR 245.2, if one member of the household receives assistance through SNAP or TANF.  Documentation for extending this categorical eligibility to other students must be maintained by the school division.  

Increased Frequency of Direct Certification Data Match
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires direct certification data matching to be conducted at a minimum  of three times per year.  VDOE is in the process of working with the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) to obtain the second and third data files for matching and working internally to modify SNPWeb to accept the additional data upload files.  The July data method will continue; the subsequent uploads to SNPWeb will be newly eligible only.

Categorical Eligibility for Foster Children  
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 extended categorical eligibility for free meals, without further application, to foster children whose care and placement is the responsibility of the state or whose placement is made by a court.  Certification for free meals is allowed without application if the school division obtains documentation from the appropriate state or local agency indicating a student’s status as a foster child who has been placed by the court or who is the responsibility of a state agency.  In Virginia, the local social services department monitors foster care placements. 

Transferring Eligibility between School Divisions/Local Education Agency (LEA)
When a student transfers from one school division to another, the new school division may accept the eligibility determination from the previous division.  A system must be in place to ensure confidentiality is maintained.  Appropriate documentation must be obtained by the new school division and maintained on file to support the student’s eligibility status.  The receiving school division must review the eligibility determination to assure the correct level of benefit was assigned and take the necessary steps to correct eligibility determinations that are incorrect. The transfer or sharing of the Direct Certification list between school divisions violates the confidentiality of all families on the list and is prohibited.  If a student, directly certified for free meals, transfers to another school division, the appropriate documentation to send to the receiving school is a copy of the Direct Certification Household notification letter indicating the students that are directly certified for free meal benefits. 

Paid Lunch Price Equity (PLE)
Student full price meals must be gradually adjusted to equal the difference between the annual free reimbursement rate and the full price reimbursement rate.  The HHFKA requires school divisions participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to ensure sufficient funds are provided to the nonprofit school food service account for lunches served to students not eligible for free or reduced price meals.  The regulations allow two ways to meet this requirement:  through the prices charged for paid lunches or through other nonfederal sources provided to the nonprofit school food service account. The 2012-2013 Paid Lunch Equity Tool sent to every school division through Superintendent’s Memo No. 082-12, dated March 30, 2012, is required to be completed to determine the required average paid lunch price increase.  The printed Weighted Average Price Report page of the PLE tool must be submitted to VDOE with the signed Annual Agreement in order for the 2012-2013 Agreement to be approved. 

Adult Meals 
Meals served to adults are not eligible for federal reimbursement, nor do they count toward determining the value of donated food assistance.  Federal reimbursements, students’ meal payments, and other nonprofit food service revenues may not be used to subsidize the price of meals served to adults.  Meals served to adults are not eligible for federal reimbursement, nor do they count toward determining the value of USDA donated food assistance.  Meals served to adults must be priced so the payment is sufficient to cover the entire cost of each meal including the value of donated foods.  The minimum adult meal price should reflect the price charged to students paying full price, plus the current value of USDA cash and donated food assistance (entitlement and bonus), plus the value of state lunch reimbursement.

Revenue from Non-Program Foods (À la Carte)
Section 206 of the HHFKA requires school divisions to generate at least as great a share of total revenue from non-program foods as non-program foods contribute to total food costs.  They must ensure that non-program foods revenue must equal at least the same proportion as their food cost.  Non-program foods are anything other than reimbursable meals sold in participating schools and purchased with SNP funds.  (More detailed guidance will be provided in a separate memo.)

Mandatory School Breakfast Program
Section 22.1-207.3, Code of Virginia, requires school divisions to establish a school breakfast program in each school in which 25 percent or more of the currently enrolled students were eligible for free or reduced price meals in the previous school year.  Board of Education regulations establish eligibility for free or reduced price meals on October 31 of the preceding school year as the basis for this determination.  Eligibility data for existing schools should be reviewed before completing the Agreement and appropriate action taken.  Schools that meet the eligibility requirements must offer a breakfast program unless an exemption is granted by the Board of Education pursuant to Board regulation 8VAC20-580-40.

New Requirements for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP)

  1. Nutrition Standards and Meal Planning:  New regulations update the meal patterns and nutrition standards for the NSLP and SBP to align them with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This rule requires most schools to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat free and low-fat fluid milk in school meals; reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat and trans fat in meals; and meet the nutrition needs of school children within their calorie requirements.  Changes to the NSLP are effective July 1, 2012.  Changes to the SBP are delayed one year and are effective July 1, 2013.  Some school divisions may prefer to adopt the required changes to their breakfast and lunch programs concurrently; however, to do so they must request approval by VDOE to implement the new standards earlier than required.  This is to ensure that the nutritional integrity of the meal is not compromised.  A form for requesting approval to implement the new breakfast standards in 2012-2013 will be posted in the online forms section of SNPWeb.  This form, signed by the division superintendent, must be submitted for approval along with the Annual Agreement and will become part of the approval process.

  2. Certification of Compliance with Meal Pattern Requirements ($0.06 Rule):  This component of the new regulations establishes the requirements for the certification of school divisions to receive an additional six cents per lunch reimbursement.  To be eligible to receive this additional reimbursement, school divisions must be certified by the state to be in compliance with the new nutrition standards.  The funds become available in October 2012.  More detailed guidance and training will be provided.

Questions regarding the annual agreement may be directed to the school nutrition program specialist assigned to your division or to Office of School Nutrition Programs staff at (804) 225-2074.

PIW/CDG/idl