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Frequently Asked Questions

National School Lunch Program (NLSP)

How can our school participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP)?

The school may visit the CN Pears website and click on New Sponsor Application Package and then call the Division of Food and Nutrition at 1-800-331-0129. Application to participate in the NSLP may be made at anytime during the year. Please check out the National School Lunch Program or USDA for more information.

School Breakfast Program (SBP)

How can our school participate in the School Breakfast Program (SBP)?

The school may apply to participate in the SBP at the same time the school applies to participate in the NSLP. The school district must amend the NSLP Application if they wish to add the SBP.

Research suggests a positive correlation between breakfast and improved academic performance. For more information on the SBP, please check out the School Breakfast Program and USDA links.

How do children become eligible for free or reduced-price meals?

Children from families with incomes at or below 130% of the poverty level are eligible for free meals. Children from families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or food stamp benefits automatically qualify for free meals.

Children from families whose income is between 130% and 185% of the poverty level are eligible for reduced price meals. For more information on free or reduced price eligibility, check out the United States Department of Agriculture website.

How do I file a complaint concerning any of the School Nutrition Programs?

A complaint may be filed with the school involved by contacting the Food Service Director (FSD), Building Principal, or School Superintendent. You may speak with the National School Lunch Program Administrator at the PA Department of Education, at 1-800-331-0129.

Any complaint may also be mailed to: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 and Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call: (202) 720-5964 (voice and TDD).

After School Snack Program

What is the Afterschool Snack Program and who can participate?

The school based Afterschool Snack Program (ASP) provides snacks to children participating in an eligible program after the regular school day is completed. All public or private schools that participate in the NSLP are eligible to participate in the ASP. The program must provide children with regularly scheduled educational or enrichment activities in a supervised afterschool environment.

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

How do I participate in the CACFP?

Child care and adult care facilities participate under the following circumstances:

  • Licensed, non-profit, non-residential child or adult care centers.
  • Licensed, for-profit, non-residential child or adult care centers which receive Title XIX or XX funding for at least 25% of either enrolled participants or the licensed capacity of the center.
  • Licensed, registered, and approved family or group day care homes operated in a residence.

Will the CACFP provide me with food for the children in my day care center or day care home?

No. The CACFP provides reimbursement to you for providing foods that meet the meal requirements to eligible children.

What are the meal requirements for the meals that I serve to the children?

Meals must meet USDA meal pattern requirements as follows:

Lunch or Supper Snack
  • Milk
  • Fruit or vegetable or
    combination of each
  • Grain
  • Milk
  • Meat/Meat Alternate
  • 1 serving of fruit
  • 1 serving of vegetable
    (2 servings of Vegetables may be
    offered in place of fruit)
  • Grain
(Choose 2 different components)
  • Milk
  • Grain 
  • Fruit 
  • Vegetable
  • Meat/Meat Alternate

Can I claim my own children in the CACFP?

If your own household qualifies as low-income, yes, you can claim your own children.

What is the At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program?

The At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program provides snacks and suppers to school-age children participating in eligible programs after the regular school day is completed. The federal program reimburses sponsors for providing a snack and/or supper that meets the required meal components.

Field Services

How do I prepare for a CRE (Coordinated Review Effort) and an SMI (School Meals Initiative for Healthy Children) review?

Gather the necessary documentation. Prior to the review, you will receive an appointment letter, which tells you the date and time the review will begin. The appointment letter will include a list of the documents that you will need to have ready for the review.

Be sure that applications for free and reduced-price meals are current and that the number of children listed on the benefit issuance list or master roster matches the number of approved applications on file.

Residential Child Care Institutions participating in the National School Lunch Program should have applications on file for all day students.

Review the Edit Check Worksheet that is done each month to be sure that the number of free and reduced-price meals claimed for reimbursement is not more than the number of approved free and reduced-price applications on file. This pertains to sponsors participating in the National School Lunch Program.

Be sure that you have dated menus, which contain all of the items required for a reimbursable meal. The problem most often found during a review of a school using the Traditional or Food Based Menu Planning System or the review of a sponsor participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program is that the second fruit and/or vegetable component is missing for lunch. Remember that you must offer either 2 fruits or 2 vegetables or 1 of each to meet the meal pattern requirements.

Be sure that you are not claiming reimbursement for more than two meals and one supplement or more than two supplements and one meal daily to each enrolled child. This pertains to sponsors of the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

Be sure that meals are counted at the point of service. Most of the meals that are disallowed during reviews are disallowed because of unacceptable meal counting systems. Unacceptable meal counting systems include: attendance counts, tray or entree counts, classroom counts, cash converted to meals, category back out systems, delivery counts, and counts taken anywhere other than at the point of service.

In Residential Child Care Institutions participating in the National School Lunch Program, meals are often served family style. Be sure that a count is taken of the number of reimbursable meals served. Attendance counts, which are taken at times other than at the point of service, are not acceptable.

The advisor will need to see copies of menus, production records, standardized recipes, and product information sheets in order to do a nutrient analysis or to verify that the nutrient analysis done by the sponsor is accurate. This applies to sponsors of the National School Lunch Program.

Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)

How is the SFSP administered?

The United States Department of Agriculture administers the SFSP at the federal level. In Pennsylvania, the Department of Education administers the Program.

What children are eligible to participate?

When a site is determined to be eligible, all children age 1 to 18 who attend that site may participate. Persons over 18 years old, who (1) are determined by a state or local educational agency to be mentally or physically disabled and (2) participate in public or private non-profit school programs for children with special needs during the school year are also eligible to receive benefits.

Who may become a sponsor?

  • Public and private schools
  • Public entities, such as counties, cities, boroughs, townships, public housing authorities, etc.
  • Certain non-profit organizations such as camps, community action agencies, youth organizations, migrant shelters, homeless shelters, etc.

What are the sponsor's requirements for participation?

To participate in the SFSP, sponsors must agree to:

  • Offer meals to all children without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, age, or handicap
  • Provide meals that meet USDA nutritional standards
  • Operate the food service program on a non-profit basis

Can my organization afford this program?

The federal government, through the PDE, will pay you to operate the SFSP. You will be reimbursed for the cost of the meals and for some administrative costs associated with operating the program. You may also receive advance payments. Additional funds are available for sponsors that prepare their own meals or are located in rural areas. Donated commodities are also available.

How is site eligibility for free meals determined?

Sponsors may operate open, enrolled, or camp sites.

Open Site
An open site draws participating children from areas where at least 50% of the children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program. Children need not register individually at such sites, and all meals served to children are reimbursable.

Enrolled Site
An enrolled site is one in which the children register to participate in an activity, and at least 50% of those registered qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Again, all children eat free, regardless of the determined level of income. All meals served to children are reimbursable.

Camp Site
A camp site is a residential camp that may serve both eligible and ineligible children. The camp is reimbursed only for those meals served to eligible children, as determined by individual applications.

How are sponsors paid?

Reimbursements for meals are based on actual cost per meal or the maximum allowable reimbursement per meal, whichever is the lesser. The maximum allowable rate is adjusted annually for inflation. Additional reimbursement is provided to offset administrative costs of operating the program. Higher administrative reimbursements are available to sponsors who operate in rural areas, or who prepare their own meals.