Johnny Key

Commissioner of Education

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A Division of the Arkansas Department of Education

Important Information


1. Direct Certification

Student eligibility for free meals is determined by application or by direct certification. Although direct certification systems vary by State and LEA, all such systems are designed to eliminate the need for paper applications. LEAs are required to conduct direct certification three times per year: once at or around the start of the school year, and again 3 and 6 months after that initial effort.  

The Arkansas Department of Education, Child Nutrition Unit administers the Direct Certification Portal link.

Direct Certification Update, Directors Conference 2015 (PowerPoint)

2.  Verification

Verification is confirmation of eligibility for free and reduced price meals under the NSLP and SBP. Verification is only required when eligibility is determined through the application process, not through direct certification conducted with an Assistance Program or officials or agencies that documented Other Source Categorical Eligibility. Verification must include either confirmation of income eligibility or confirmation that the child or any member of the household is receiving assistance under SNAP, FDPIR, or TANF or that a child is Other Source Categorically Eligible. Verification may include confirmation of any other information required on the application, such as household size.

For completing and reporting results, ADE's Child Nutrition Unit has provided a Step by Step Guide to Verification page.

This page has been updated with the 2017 Eligibility Guidance and the 2018 Verification Deadlines, Information and Forms.

The initial approval of applications for free and reduced price meals must be based on the information provided on the application. Eligibility is confirmed in the verification process.

Before beginning this process, please review Commissioner's Memo.

3.  Paid Lunch Equity

Paid Lunch Equity (PLE) is required based on Section 205 of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHKA)  and requires School Food Authorities (SFAs) to ensure sufficient funds are provided to the non-profit school food service account for lunches served to students not eligible for free or reduced price meal benefits (i.e.: paid students). Meals prepared for students cost the same amount to prepare, regardless if the student is eligible for free, reduced or paid meals. The difference is the amount the student pays and the amount that is reimbursed by USDA based on eligibility category. Many SFAs had a very low paid student charge for meals; therefore, the free/reduced student meal reimbursement income was supporting paid student meals.  

The result, for most Arkansas school district’s, has been a slight annual increase in the paid student’s meal charge to align more closely with the free reimbursement rate.  

4.  Non-Program Foods

School Program regulations at 7 CFR 210.14 (f) require all revenue from the sale of non-program foods to accrue to the nonprofit school food service account. Non-program food is defined as food sold in a school at any time or location on the school campus (other than reimbursable meals) purchased using funds from the non-profit school food service account. Please note that this is different from competitive food which is defined as all food (other than reimbursable meals) sold to students during the school day. The USDA Policy Memo #SP-13-2014 provides clarification on the requirements for the accrual of revenue from the sale of non-program food.  

5. Smarter Lunchroom Movement

The Arkansas Child Nutrition Unit and the University of Arkansas Extension Service have partnered to bring the Smarter Lunchroom Movement to Arkansas. County Extension Agents in counties across the state are trained to assist schools with the implementation of Smarter Lunchroom techniques, and Area Specialists are available to answer questions school districts may have about implementation. To get started in this next phase of marketing your school meal programs, contact your local County Extension Office or view the following online tools:

For a general overview of Smarter Lunchrooms, visit

For a copy of the Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard, visit

For sample fun names for foods, visit  

For fun signs and labels, visit

For staff training materials, visit

6.  All Foods on Campus

Starting in school year 2014-15, all foods sold at school during the school day will need to meet nutrition standards. The Smart Snacks in School regulation applies to foods sold a la carte, in the school store, and vending machines. Prior to the publishing of the Smart Snacks rule, 39 States already had nutrition standards in place. Resources related to USDA’s Smart Snacks and All Foods on Campus Rule are available at

7.  Food Safety

Sample Food Safety Plan

Arkansas Food Safety and Sanitation Inspection Resources:

Arkansas Department of Health, Food Establishment Assessment Report

Rules and Regulations Pertaining to Retail Food Establishments (please note the highlighted changes) – Arkansas State Board of Health – Effective September 7, 2019 (PDF)


Ask Karen - Ask Karen provides information for consumers about preventing foodborne illness, safe food handling and storage, and safe preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products.

Is it Done Yet? - You can't tell by looking. Use a food thermometer to be sure. Visit Thermometer use resources.

Food Safe Schools Action Kit - A multifaceted implementation tool comprised of a variety of products specially designed to help school staff in their efforts to make their school food-safe. The Food-Safe Schools Action Guide can help schools identify gaps in food safety and develop an action plan for becoming food-safe.

8.  Professional Standards


Arkansas Department of Education – Rules Governing the Certification and Continuing Professional Development of Child Nutrition Directors, Managers and Workers, (March 14, 2005)

FIN-15-127: Additional Professional Standards Required for all Child Nutrition Personnel


USDA has released the Professional Standards for State and Local School Nutrition Programs Personnel as Required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Final Rule.

This final rule establishes minimum professional standards for school nutrition personnel who manage and operate the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The final rule institutes hiring standards for the selection of State and local school nutrition program directors, and requires all personnel in the school nutrition programs to complete annual continuing education/training. These regulations are expected to result in consistent, national professional standards that strengthen the ability of school nutrition professionals and staff to perform their duties effectively and efficiently.
Effective Date:  July 1, 2015
SP 39-2016 Questions & Answers on the Final Rule “Professional Standards for the State and Local School Nutrition Program Personnel as Required by the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010”
Guide to Professional Standards for School Nutrition Programs
Professional Standards Learning Topics With Learning Topic Codes (PDF)
Professional Standards Learning Objectives (PDF)

State Standards

Learn more about the standards that define the knowledge and skills Arkansas students should have in order to be ready for college and careers.

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Licensure & Certification

Find critical information about renewing Arkansas educator licenses, adding areas of licensure, licensing by reciprocity from other states, background checks and more.

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