Arizona National School Lunch Program (NSLP) Application Information

The National School Lunch Program or NSLP and the School Breakfast Program or SBP are federal programs aimed to protect the health and welfare of schoolchildren by providing sufficient nutritious food at no cost or for a reduced price. These are available to private and public schools, as well as residential child care institutions (RCCIs) such as temporary shelters, juvenile detention centers, homes for the physically, emotionally, or mentally impaired, orphanages, and group homes.

Establishing a good eating lifestyle, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) provide nutritionally balanced meals each school day to children who are 18 years of age and below.

At the Federal level, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the programs; State education agencies operate at the State level by making agreements with various school food authorities.

In Arizona, the NSLP and the SBP are compulsory - all schools in the elementary, middle, and junior high levels must take part in the programs, with the exemption of schools with less than 100 students. Schools are obliged to apply and complete all the requirements before the programs are conducted.

Once schools are approved, they will receive funds from the Department of Education for every breakfast and lunch meal provided to schoolchildren. In return, they must meet the nutrition standards and the Federal and state regulations.

Before each school year begins, information letters are given to the families of children who are attending school. This notice lets the people know of the available school nutrition programs and that meals may be provided to children for free or at a reduced cost. It should also include the eligibility requirements of the programs. These information letters are normally distributed every year in the month of June.

In the new meal pattern that will be effective starting SY 2012-2013, the availability of vegetables, whole grains, and fruits will be increased in the school menu. This is because of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that ordered the USDA to revise the nutrition standards and the meal pattern of the NSLP. Specific calorie limits are set in the new dietary guidelines to make sure that the meals are appropriate for the specific age.

Meals served in schools are required to meet the Federal requirements; however, the decisions regarding the specific foods as well as the preparations are made by the school food authorities.

Eligibility Requirements

Any child in a school that participates in the NSLP and SBP may receive a healthy meal for free or for a reduced cost, depending on the income level of the family. Here's how children may qualify for the benefits of the programs:

  • Children from families whose incomes are at 130% or below of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) are qualified to receive free meals.
  • Those children whose families have incomes between 130% and 185% are eligible to buy meals at a low price - no more than 40 cents.
  • For children who have families with incomes above 185% of the FPL pay a full price for their meals, although their food are still funded at some level. The school food authorities in your local area establish their own prices for fully-priced meals, but they are required to manage their services as non-profit programs.

The eligibility requirements for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program are as follows:

  • Must live in Arizona
  • Must be a parent or a primary caretaker who is responsible for a child who goes to school at a high school level or below
  • Must have a certain household income

Citizenship or the immigration status of an individual is not one of the conditions of eligibility to receive benefits. Local Education Agencies are required to apply the same criteria for both U.S. citizens and non-citizens.

The eligibility of a child to receive benefits from the programs is effective from the starting date of eligibility for the present school year up to 30 days of the following school year. Still, this cannot be applied if the preliminary eligibility determination was wrong or if the proof of household eligibility doesn't keep up with the level of benefits which was approved for the family. In such cases, officials need to take action and make proper adjustments in eligibility.

National School Lunch Program Application Instructions

To apply for the NSLP and SBP, families need to submit a Household Income Application given by the school. You only need to submit a single application for all the children in your household that go to schools in the same Local Educational Agencies or LEA.

There are two ways to apply for the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program, depending on what the LEA uses:

  1. Paper Applications: If the Local Educational Agency uses paper-based applications, the instructions and application form will be included with the information letter sent to the families of the children.
  2. Web or Computer Applications: If the Local Educational Agency uses web or computer-based applications, the information letter sent to the households must include instructions on how to gain access to the system to be able to apply for the programs. Additionally, the letter should also clarify how to get a paper application and how to submit it.

Local Educational Agencies are not allowed to call for an application for every child in a family except for those who live in Residential Child Care Institutions (RCCIs) because each child in an RCCI is regarded as a single household.

Those who reside in an RCCI should submit an application for each child or the RRCI may apply for all the children residing there by using an eligibility documentation sheet. This must include the name of the child, the personal income each one receives, date of birth, as well as the date of admission and release. The documentation sheet needs to have the title, contact information, and the signature of an appropriate official. For children who attend in an RCCI but do not live in one are deemed as members of their own family and therefore, they will be determined eligible for the program through direct certification or a household application.

Applications for the NSLP and SBP are normally reviewed in a well-timed approach - eligibility must be determined within ten operating days after the application has been received, including notifying the family of the status, and implementing it. Applications have to be processed right away and the families must also be informed of the result immediately. This way, households will have enough time to make preparations for payment to avoid any meal charges from accumulating.