Definitions You Will Need
The “Why?” Behind the Requirements
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  Definitions You Will Need

As the designers and developers, part of your task is to ensure that the information entered in the application is accurate. These terms and definitions will be useful in accomplishing that task.

Child Anyone age 18 or under and are supported with the household’s income; or in your care under a foster arrangement, or qualify as homeless, migrant, or runaway youth; or students attending high school grade or under, regardless of age

Assistance Programs - Receipt of benefits by or participation of any household member from certain Assistance Programs conveys eligibility for free school meals to all children in the household. When certifying eligibility based on participation in these programs, determinations must be made with appropriate case numbers submitted on the application. The Assistance Programs are:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly known as food stamps)
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Child income - Money received from outside the household that is paid directly to children. Examples include:

  • A child has a job where they earn a salary or wages.
  • A child is blind or disabled and receives Social Security benefits.
  • A parent is disabled, retired, or deceased, and their child receives Social Security benefits.
  • A friend or extended family member outside of the household regularly gives a child spending money.
  • A child receives income from a private pension fund, annuity, or trust.

Adult income – Typically this should be income received during the month or year prior to the date that the application is submitted – whichever is a better reflection of the household's current annual income. If past income does not accurately reflect the household's current annual rate of income, income shall be based on the projected annual household income.

  • Potential sources of income include:
    • Earnings from Work
      • Salary, wages, cash bonuses
      • Net income from self-employment (farm or business)
      • Strike benefits
    • If household members are in the U.S. Military:
      • Basic pay and cash bonuses (do NOT include combat pay, FSSA or privatized housing allowances)
      • Allowances for off-base housing, food, and clothing
    • Public Assistance/Alimony/Child Support (Should not report the value of any cash value public assistance benefits NOT listed here.)
      • Unemployment benefits
      • Worker’s compensation
      • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
      • Cash assistance from State or local government
      • Alimony payments (only if court-ordered)
      • Child support payments (only if court-ordered)
      • Veteran’s benefits
    • Pensions/Retirement/All Other Income
      • Social Security (including railroad retirement and black lung benefits)
      • Private Pensions or disability
      • Income from trusts or estates
      • Annuities
      • Investment income
      • Earned interest
      • Rental income
      • Regular cash payments from outside household
    • Income fields with a ‘0’ or that are left blank are assumed to be a certification by the applicant that there is no income to report.
    • Income reported in whole dollars (no cents) and in gross amounts, meaning before taxes or deductions.

Foster – A child who is formally placed by a court or a State child welfare agency.

Head Start - A child that is enrolled in a Federal Head Start or State-funded pre-kindergarten program that uses eligibility criteria that is identical or more stringent than Federal Head Start.

Homeless - A child identified by the Local Education Agency (LEA) homeless liaison or by an official of a homeless shelter as lacking a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.

Household members - Anyone who is living with you and shares income and expenses, even if not related, and even if they do not have income of their own. This does not include people who live in the household, but are not supported by the
household’s income and do not contribute income to your household.

Migrant - A child identified as a migrant by the State or local Migrant Education Program coordinator or the local educational liaison, or other individual identified by FNS.

Runaway - A child identified as a runaway receiving assistance under a program under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, by the local educational liaison, or other individual in accordance with guidance issued by FNS.


The “Why?” Behind the Requirements

Wait, why are we asking for: 

  • A place to indicate a child’s status as foster, homeless, migrant, runaway or enrolled in a Head Start program?
    • Children that are determined to meet these definitions are eligible for free meals. This is referred to as categorical eligibility.
  • Income and frequency for each household member?
    • It is very important to list the frequency of household income, as a monthly income amount of $100.00 and a weekly amount of $100.00 could have an impact on the final eligibility determination.
  • Total household size?
    • It is necessary to list all household members, as the size of the household determines the income cutoff for free and reduced price meals.
  • A field for a case number for Assistance Programs (SNAP, TANF, FDPIR)?
    • Participation by any one household member in one of these assistance programs means all children in the household are categorically eligible.
  • An electronic signature by an adult member of the household?
    • An adult household member must attest (by way of signature) that the information provided is complete and correct. [Remember - Signatures do not need to be government certified for the purpose of this competition.]
  • The address, phone number and email address (and an indication that these fields are optional)?
    • To accommodate households that are homeless, these fields are optional, but the school needs up-to-date contact information for the households so they can send notice of the certification decision for free or reduced price meals. They also help school districts distinguish children and families with the same or similar names. 
  • The city, state and zip code?
    • Like the information above, this is needed to contact households.