Superintendent’s Memo #237-11

State seal, Commonwealth of Virginia

Department of Education

August 26, 2011

TO:  Division Superintendents

FROM:  Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT:  Categorical Eligibility for Free Meals for Students in Foster Care Placement

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (the Act), Public Law 111-296, provides categorical eligibility for free meals to foster children.  The purpose of this memorandum is to provide guidance on the implementation of this provision in the School Nutrition Programs.

Section 102 of the Act amends Section 9(b)(12)(A) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (NSLA) to provide categorical eligibility for free meals, without further application, to any foster child whose care and placement is the responsibility of the state or who is placed by a court with a caretaker household.  In addition, the Act amends Section 9(b)(5) of the NSLA to allow certification of a foster child for free meals, without application, if the local education agency (LEA) obtains documentation from an appropriate state or local agency indicating the status of the child as a foster child whose care and placement is the responsibility of the state or a court.  These provisions are effective immediately.

School divisions are strongly encouraged to establish formal mechanisms with state and local foster agencies to receive information directly from these agencies to facilitate certification for free meals for foster children.  The Department of Education previously recommended, in Superintendent’s Memorandum number 306-10, dated December 10, 2010, that each school division designate a point of contact for students in foster care.  These LEA foster care contacts should work closely with the local director, supervisor, or contact person for school nutrition programs to provide documentation for students who are in foster care placement to assure timely free meal eligibility for these students.

It is important to note that these provisions apply only to foster children formally placed by a state child welfare agency or a court.  They do not apply to informal arrangements that may exist outside of state or court based systems.  In Virginia, the agency responsible for foster care placement and oversight is the local department of social services (LDSS).

Changes to Free and Reduced Price Meal Application Process

This change to allow categorical eligibility for free meals for foster children necessitates changes in the way free and reduced price meal applications are handled.  Previously, a separate application for free and reduced price meals was required to be submitted for a foster child who was considered a household of one.
Now, the foster child is categorically eligible for free meals and must be certified by the LEA without further application.  Households with foster and non-foster children may choose to include the foster child as a household member, as well as any personal income earned by the foster child, on the same household application that includes their non-foster children. 

In processing this application, the LEA would certify the foster child for free meals and then make an eligibility determination for the remainder of the household based on the household’s income (including personal income earned by the foster child) or other categorical eligibility information reported on the application.  As before, foster payments received by the caretaker household from the placing agency are not considered income and should not be reported or considered in the eligibility determination.  Please note that the presence of a foster child in the household does not convey eligibility for free meals to all children in the household in the same manner as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) participation does.

Certification for Free Meals for Foster Children Without Application

In order to certify the student in foster care as eligible for free meals without application, the local school nutrition program director, supervisor, or contact person (SNP contact) must obtain documentation of the student’s foster care placement from an official with knowledge of the student’s formal placement by the state welfare agency or court.  This may be accomplished by one or more of the following methods:

The above referenced student lists should be treated as confidential information and kept secure at all times by the LEA foster care contact and the SNP contact.

A series of questions and answers related to this provision is Attachment A to this memorandum.  If there are additional questions, or assistance in the implementation of this provision is needed, contact the school nutrition program specialist assigned to your division or office of school nutrition programs staff at (804) 225-2074.



  1. Categorical Eligibility for Free Meals for Students in Foster Care Placement - Questions and Answers (PDF)