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Direct certification for migrant children determined to be eligible for the Title I Migrant Education Program

(updated 7/19/2006)

On June 30, 2004, the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-265) was signed into law. The law, which reauthorized child nutrition programs, included a provision which makes migrant children, identified as eligible by a local school or district (or local operating agency) for the federally funded Title I, Part C, Migrant Education Program, automatically eligible for free school meals without the need for the migrant family to fill out an application. Similar provisions provide the identical treatment for homeless children, runaway youth, and, more recently, foster children.  There is also what is called "categorical eligibility" for children enrolled in  the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program.


The simple procedures for schools to use to determine if a student is categorically eligible as a migratory child for free lunch and breakfast without an application can be found at page 40 of the U. S. Department of Education Eligibility Manual found here.

Following is a brief legislative history: 

On March 24, 2004, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Child Nutrition Improvement and Integrity Act (H.R. 3873) by a vote of 419-5. On May 19, 2004, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry unanimously passed its version of the child nutrition reauthorization bill (S. 2507) which included the same provision providing for direct certification of migrant children for free or reduced school meals.

This bill passed the Senate by Unanimous Consent on June 23, 2004. The House approved the Senate passed bill on June 24, 2004.

The Migrant Legal Action Program (MLAP) is very proud of its role in having this provision included in this legislation. We thank MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger for its support of MLAP’s food and nutrition work on behalf of migrant workers and their families.

School lunch eligibility of migrant and other children not eligible for the Title I Migrant Education Program


Migrant and other children not eligible for the Title I migrant education program nonetheless may be eligible for the free or reduced price school meals programs based on family income. There is NO restriction for participation in these programs based on immigration status and children cannot be barred from participation because they are immigrants or come from an immigrant family. Social Security numbers are, therefore, not required on applications for these programs. (If a family or individual does not have a Social Security number, all the applicant needs to do is check the box indicating that the applicant does not have a Social Security number.)

USDA’s web site provides materials for families & schools:

  • The materials in English, specifically family application forms, are available here in Word format or here in PDF.

  • The same materials are available in forty nine languages here.


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