Migrant Education Program

DATE August 23, 2004

TO: Sponsors of School Nutrition Programs

FROM: Director, Food and Nutrition Service

SUBJECT: Categorical Eligibility for Migrant Children

This message includes:

- USDA policy on school meal categorical eligibility for migrant children

- Information about coordination between school food service and the Migrant Education Program (MEP) at the local level.

Categorical Eligibility for Migrant Children

The recent federal reauthorization law for USDA Child Nutrition Programs provided for categorical eligibility for free school meals to migrant children, effective starting school year 2004-05. Eligible children are those who have been certified as migrant children under the Migrant Education Program (MEP) of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). For each migrant child, the school district will have completed a "Certificate of Eligibility" or "COE." As described below, a school district's MEP contact may provide the food service with a list of migrant children for the purpose of school meal eligibility.

In general under the ESEA, a migrant child is one who has moved across district lines, within the last three years, in order to accompany or join a parent or guardian who has moved to seek or obtain temporary or seasonal work in agriculture or fishing.

Migrant Education Program

The Migrant Education Program (MEP) is authorized under Title I of the ESEA to minimize the disruption caused by migrant children's frequent moves. Local Educational Agencies and other organizations receive ESEA grants to provide supplemental educational and support services to migrant children.

Once a child has been determined to be a migrant child, the MEP contact at the school district files a "Certificate of Eligibility" for the migrant child with the MN Department of Education.

Documentation of Migrant Status for School Nutrition Programs

School food service should contact their MEP liaison to receive documentation on migrant children. At other districts with migrant children, the school food service should contact their Title I Coordinator. For the purpose of documenting eligibility to the school food service, USDA requires only that the MEP contact provide a dated list with each migrant child's name and the signature of the MEP contact. The school food service should disregard any Application for Educational Benefits submitted on behalf of the child.

Once eligibility has been established, the household must be notified of free school meal eligibility as soon as possible. It is particularly important that newly arrived migrant children be documented and certified for free meals as promptly as possible. Local Educational Agencies need to establish procedures that assure prompt notification to the school food service when a new migrant child is identified.

According to a recently revised School Nutrition Programs policy, school meal benefits for all students are approved for the entire school year. Therefore, free meal eligibility for a migrant child is effective for the entire school year without any updates from the MEP contact. Also, the school food service can extend school meal eligibility into the following school year for up to 30 operating days or until a new school meal eligibility determination is made, whichever occurs first.

If you have questions about school meal eligibility based on migrant status, contact Food and Nutrition Service - policy team at 651-582-8526 or 1-800-366-8922.

If you have questions about the Migrant Education Program and identification of migrant children, contact your local MEP liaison or contact Noemi Trevino, MDE Migrant Education Specialist, 651-582-8233.