Technology with CNPs

School Meals Online Application

What is a school meals online application?
The “school meals online application,” or just an “online application,” is a way for families to apply electronically for free or reduced-price school meals. The application is generally available to families over the Internet through any standard web browser. School districts may also choose to make the online application accessible on a mobile device or through an app.

What should you consider when selecting a School Meals Online Application?

  • It is important to know that USDA and FNS do not evaluate, recommend, approve, or endorse any software used for certification or verification purposes. There are no Federal specifications for software vendors. LEAs are responsible for assuring that any automated certification and verification processes meet all regulatory requirements and policies, including the calculation of income frequencies, and that the software used is performing correctly and meets all requirements. ADE recommends that Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) review the USDA Eligibility Manual for School Meals to ensure their software meets all requirements.
  • USDA recently released a prototype for web-based school meals applications. The electronic prototype application is intended to be a model for how local program operators (or their designated vendors) may develop an effective and fully compliant electronic/online application for school meal benefits. While USDA offers both the design and code as open source publications free for all to access, these materials are not structured for direct or immediate use by households unless adapted and integrated with appropriate data management systems maintained at the local level.
  • A guide has been created by Social Interest Solutions and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, released November 2016. This guide is designed for school district staff and others knowledgeable about the school meal programs. Whether a district is shopping for an online application for the first time, considering upgrading its current application, or looking for a new product to replace what it’s already using, this guide is intended to provide school districts with key information about their options. It includes practical tips, checklists, and questions to inform the decision-making process. With these tools, school districts will be better positioned to find a solution that meets the needs of their staff and families.