School Nutrition Services

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.




"USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender."

To view the complete USDA Non-Discrimination Statement visit the link below:

P.O. Box 30035
Charlotte, NC 28230-0035
Phone: 980-343-3000
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools website ( is in compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Any website accessibility concerns may be brought via the following, Email the Web Accessibility Team at WebAccessibility or Call: 980.343.0115. In compliance with Federal Law, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools administers all education programs, employment activities and admissions without discrimination against any person on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, national origin, age, or disability. Inquiries regarding compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities, may be referred to the District's Title IX Coordinator at titleixcoordinator or to the Office for Civil Rights, United States Department of Education.