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Expanded Income Eligibility (EIE); Is Your District Ready?

State-specific changes regarding income eligibility guidelines for subsidized meals within the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) are taking effect. From application processing to reporting and claims to point of sale, a district’s nutrition program software must be ready to adapt to these changes.
New Jersey, for example, has passed the “Working Class Families’ Anti-Hunger Act” A-2368/S-1677 (P.L. 2022, c104), which includes several provisions designed to increase participation in and access to school lunch and breakfast programs. Arguably the most acutely impactful included provision is the expansion of income-based free meals. Well known that the USDA’s income guidelines establish free and reduced-priced meals for students of households below 130 percent and 185 percent of the federal poverty level, respectively; the Act specifies that all students meeting reduced-price criteria will now be further subsidized by the State to receive those meals free of charge. Furthermore, the Act newly defines a middle income family as “a family with an annual household income amounting to not less than 186 percent, and not more than 199 percent, of the federal poverty level.” While schools do receive a small federal subsidy for meals served to students that are federally ineligible for free or reduced-price meals, New Jersey will now provide schools the difference between the USDA federal free rate of reimbursement and the USDA paid rate of reimbursement for eligible students from middle income family households. These changes are estimated to cost the State $19.2 million.

So, what does this mean for your district's nutrition program software?

With these changes, a new challenge that will fall on the district will be reporting and claims of participants in the newly defined middle income group, or federally determined paid expanded income eligible (EIE) category, as well as the typical free, reduced, and paid categories. For 2023-2024 SY, districts should ask their nutrition software provider if there are updates to account for EIE.
Here at i3, we believe nutrition software needs to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of school nutrition, ensuring the end-user has the tools to meet state and federal regulations. In New Jersey, for example, our users will now have access to updated versions of all previously available reports to coincide with these new standards of tracking EIE, providing all necessary information for reporting to SNEARS. By integrating the new status field, all data flows seamlessly throughout Edit Checks, determination letters, and more, providing districts the framework to maintain the total number of students’ eligibility status, as well as all internal record-keeping practices related to each category.
The development of our software is an essential investment as it affects end-users from parents to program directors to administration. While these changes may only affect a handful of states for the upcoming school year, similar updates across the nation are likely, and i3 continues to lay the groundwork for the future of school nutrition software.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, why not take a moment to follow i3 Education on social? We strive to provide priceless content regarding K-12 nutrition program operation, and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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