We are a statewide policy and advocacy organization dedicated to improving the health and well being of low income Californians by increasing their access to nutritious, affordable food.

Updated USDA Guidance to Prevent Overt Identification


9.4.2012 Last week USDA released their updated "Eligibility Manual for School Meals", which includes added guidance to ensure that schools do not overtly identify students eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Per the manual, USDA states that "schools must ensure to the maximum extent practicable, that the sale of competitive foods and the method of payment does not inadvertently result in children being identified by their peers as receiving free or reduced price meal benefits."

In the memo, USDA suggests ways schools can prevent overt identification related to the availability of competitive foods in the lunchroom.

  • Limit competitive foods to those also offered as part of reimbursable meals on the reimbursable lunch lines;
  • Offer competitive foods on the same lines as reimbursable meals are offered; or
  • Only allow competitive foods to be purchased with a pre-paid card

Additionally, USDA encourages schools to examine their payment systems and to use prepayment methods to decrease overt identification. USDA reminds schools that they must make "reasonable efforts" to promote such prepayment systems so that they are used by students and parents. 

Policy Memo PDF
Updated Eligibilty Manual (with changes highlighted) PDF