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Categorical Eligibility for Free Lunches and Breakfasts of Runaway, Homeless, and Migrant Youth

EO Guidance Document #
FNS Document #
SP 4-2004
Resource type
Policy Memos
Resource Materials
PDF Icon Policy Memo (70.06 KB)
DATE: July 19, 2004
MEMO CODE: Reauthorization 2004 Implementation Memo SP 4-2004
SUBJECT: Categorical Eligibility for Free Lunches and Breakfasts of Runaway, Homeless, and Migrant Youth
TO: Special Nutrition Programs
All Regions
State Agencies
Child Nutrition Programs
All States

Section 107 of the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 (Act) amended section 9(b) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to make runaway, homeless and migrant children categorically eligible for free meal benefits under the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs and is effective July 1, 2004. In addition to establishing free meal eligibility, the Act also establishes a requirement for documenting a child’s status as runaway, homeless, or migratory.

Previously, through guidance, the Food and Nutrition Service extended categorical eligibility for free school meals to children considered homeless under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. School officials were allowed to accept statements that children were homeless from the local educational liaison for the homeless or directors of homeless shelters where the children reside. The Act now establishes in law the categorical eligibility of these children for free school meals. Please see the previously issued memoranda of April 6, 1992, Documentation of Free and Reduce Price Meal Eligibility for Homeless Children and of April 4, 2002, Updated Guidance for Homeless Children in the School Nutrition Programs, on documentation for homeless children under McKinney-Vento.

There were, however, no similar eligibility and documentation provisions for runaway youth or migrant children. At this time, we are in discussions with the Department of Health and Human Services, regarding implementation of that portion of the Act that addresses categorical eligibility for runaway youth served through grant programs established under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. We hope to provide guidance in the very near future on how to determine and document if a child is receiving services as a runaway and is therefore categorically eligible for free school meals.

For migratory children, each state Educational Agency’s Migrant Education Program establishes their own process for determining if a child meets the criteria provided under Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. State Child Nutrition Agencies must contact their state Migrant Education Program to develop a plan for sharing and documenting the migratory child’s eligibility for free school meals.

Child Nutrition Division

Page updated: December 19, 2022

The contents of this guidance document do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.