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About Area Eligibility

The Richard B Russell National School Lunch Act (NSLA) allows the use of school data to establish area eligibility in the Child and Adult Care Food Program and the Summer Food Service Program. The NSLA also allows the use of census data to establish tier I eligibility for CACFP day care homes and area eligibility for SFSP sites.

When determining area eligibility using school data, the proposed meal site must be located in the attendance area of a school where at least 50 percent of the children are eligible for free or reduced price school meals. When using census data to determine eligibility, the proposed site must be located in a Census Block Group (CBG) or Census Tract in which 50 percent or more of the children are eligible for free or reduced price meals. However, based on an analysis of the proposed location, with state agency approval, up to three adjacent CGBs may be averaged, using a weighted average, to determine eligibility, provided that at least 40 percent of children in each of the individual CBGs are eligible for free or reduced price meals.

Area eligibility determinations made using either school or census data must be re-determined every five years. Once a site establishes area eligibility, the eligibility is effective for a period of five years, regardless of any transition from one child nutrition program to another. However, because area eligibility for CACFP at-risk afterschool meals must be based on school data, SFSP sites that established eligibility using census data must provide additional documentation indicating that they are area eligible based on school data to participate in CACFP at-risk afterschool meals.

For more information on Area Eligibility, please see Area Eligibility in Child Nutrition Programs [SP08 CACFP04 SFSP03-2017]

Page updated: April 07, 2023