School Nutrition Services » Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions


National School Lunch & Breakfast Programs Questions & Answers 

Q: Are all students allowed to participate in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program?

Yes. All students may participate. Students may, however, participate at different benefit levels.

Q: How is a student’s benefit level determined?

The School Nutrition Office reviews applications and eligibility determination is based on USDA guidelines. Students may also be granted free meal benefits through the process of Direct Certification. Direct Certification is a process which allows CMS to obtain documentation from the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services (DSS) to determine the children who are members of a household currently certified to receive food stamps or TANF benefits and are therefore eligible for free meal benefits.

Q: Are students allowed unlimited portions of food at breakfast & lunch?

No. Students at each benefit level are entitled to one meal for breakfast and one meal for lunch of the Offer Versus Serve meal patterns. Additional food items or second meals may be purchased at a la carte prices. A breakfast consists of 1) Milk, 2) Fruit-1/2 cup 3) Fruit juice-4 oz 4) Grain-1serving 5) 2nd Grain or Meat/Meat Alternate-1 serving. Students may select three, four or five items--one of which must be at least 1/2 cup of fruite or 4 oz of fruit juice. A student cannot take 2 fruit juices. 

Q: If a student consistently does not bring meal money, may the student be placed on free meal benefits?

No. Free or reduced price meal benefits are to be granted through the appropriate meal benefit application process or Direct Certification.

Q: What can be done if a student does not apply for meal benefits and school officials know that the student is eligible?

A school official may complete an application for a student known to be eligible if the household fails to apply. When exercising this option, the school official must complete an application based on the best household size and income information available and make an eligibility determination. The source of the information MUST be noted on the application. Names of household members, social security numbers, and signature of an adult household member need not be secured. These applications should be excluded from verification. The household must be notified that the student has been certified and is receiving free or reduced price meal benefits. This option is intended for limited use in individual situations and must not be used to make eligibility determinations for groups of students.

Q: Do I need to complete a meal application if my child attends a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) school?

No. If all of your school-aged children attend a CEP participating CMS school. But if you have school-aged children in your household that do not attend a CEP CMS school and some do you must complete a meal application for the student in the non-CEP school to be considered for meal benefits.

Q: May the information on meal applications be shared with programs or departments other than School Nutrition?

No. Not unless the parent has signed a waiver of confidentiality for the specific purpose. The participants' names, eligibility status and other information provided on the application or obtained through direct certification or verification may be disclosed to certain other Federal, State or local agencies as authorized by the National School Lunch Act.

Q: Are students entitled to meal benefits at the beginning of the school year?

Yes. Students who were approved for benefits last year will continue receiving meals under last year's approval until a new application is processed. Students have up to 30 days to reapply for meal benefits. Students who do not reapply for the current school year will need money for meals beginning the 31st school day. New students must have an approved application on file before meal benefits begin. 

Q: If a student applies for meal benefits after the last day of the current school year, must the application be processed?

Yes. Applications will be processed until July 1 of each year.

Q: Must old meal benefit applications be kept on file?

Yes. Applications are federal records and must be kept for three years and three months.

Q: If a class decides to have a Pizza Party instead of eating in the cafeteria, is this legal?

No. Federal and state regulations prohibit this. Even if the food is donated and no child is charged for the meal. School Nutrition must operate all food and beverage services during lunch hours. Contact School Nutrition for planning special event meals.

Q: What is verification?

Verification is confirmation of eligibility for free and reduced price meals under the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. This is an annual process that begins October 1 and must be completed by November 15 of each year.

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, religious creed, disability, age, political beliefs, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA. 


Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits.  Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.  Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.


To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: How to File a Complaint, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992.  Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:


(1)        mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

1400 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;


(2)        fax: (202) 690-7442; or


(3)        email:


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