Limiting disclosure and use of free and reduced price meal eligibility status

ADMINISTRATIVE  LETTER: 57
POLICY CODE:  EF

Schools are obligated by law and by the best the interests of students to limit the disclosure of information about who is eligible for and/or receiving reduced price meals.

It has come to our attention that some parents are not applying for meal benefits for their children because unauthorized staff have knowledge of students’ status.  In addition to harming students, this has already resulted in school nutrition funding loss for some school administrative units (SAUs). Because it is sometimes a factor in funding for other programs, a drop in the number of students receiving free/reduced meals can also result in a loss of funds for those programs.

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) collects parent data yearly that includes economic status. Information on the economic status of all students must be kept secure and confidential; ensuring this may require a locked cabinet and/or a secure database. The electronic database must be secure so that student economic status is available only to authorized school food service personnel.

7 CFR 245.6(f)(1) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Code of Federal Regulations, available online at http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Governance/regulations.htm, specifically indicates which persons may have access to information on the economic status of students.  The regulations state it is the responsibility of the School Food Service Department to determine who has access to this information.

The aggregate numbers of students receiving free/reduced meals can be released and are available on the Child Nutrition Services webpage at the following link:  https://portal.maine.gov/sfsr/sfsrdev.public_reports.main_page Select ED534 – School Lunch Free and Reduced Percentages.

Questions may be directed to Walter Beesley at (207) 624-6875 or Walter.Beesley@Maine.gov .