Civil Rights for Child Nutrition Programs
Welcome to the Civil Rights Training for Federal
Child Nutrition Programs.
Civil Rights Regulations are intended to assure
that benefits of Child Nutrition Programs
are made available to all eligible people
in a non-discriminatory manner.
All child nutrition program sponsors receiving
Federal dollars must implement Civil Rights
requirements to be eligible for the program.
Discrimination is the different treatment
which makes a distinction of one person or
a group of persons from others; either intentionally,
by neglect or by the actions or lack of actions
based on the protected classes.
Let’s apply some of these classes to scenarios:
National origin comes into play when we talk
about ensuring access for those with limited
Not discrimination based on sex could mean
not separating menus or meal service lines
based on student sex.
Also, it’s important to respect students
that change their sex, or even gender identity.
This doesn’t allow for the discrimination
of individuals based on other characteristics,
but that is where good customer service comes
Good customer service includes treating all
participants with respect and dignity
The regulation (FNS 113-1) states specific
areas that are required to be included in
Civil Rights Training.
These will be the areas that we will cover
Collection of data:
Local agencies must have a system to collect
the racial and ethnic identities of the populations
that they serve.
This data will be used to determine how effectively
the Child Nutrition Programs are reaching
potential eligible persons.
Self-identification is the preferred method.
Household applications for free and reduced
price meals must have an optional section
for participants to record racial or ethnic
The Application should include the following
Black or African American
American Indian & Alaska Native
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
The Application should include the following
Hispanic or Latino or
Not Hispanic or Latino
If racial and ethnic data is not provided
by meal program participants on the free and
reduced price meals application, or free and
reduced price meals applications are not collected
from participating children, sponsors must
make their best visual determination of participating
children’s racial and ethnic identity using
their own judgement.
Why do we collect this?
State agencies and sponsors are responsible
for using current racial or ethnic data to
determine if the program is reaching potentially
eligible, low-income households.
Public Notification Systems
Inform applicants, participants, and potentially
eligible persons of the program availability,
program rights and responsibilities, the policy
of nondiscrimination, and the procedure for
filing a complaint.
Include the USDA nondiscrimination statement
on any materials that share information about
program benefits, including websites.
Where do you need to include the nondiscrimination
The full statement must be included anytime
the USDA food programs are referenced, including:
Letters, Notice of Eligibility or Denied Eligibility,
Brochures and the meal program main webpage.
All nondiscrimination statements should be
in print size no smaller than the text of
True or false?
The USDA Nondiscrimination Statement never
Once you’ve got it you never need to check
This statement is False.
The Nondiscrimination Statement was last updated
It’s important to make sure program materials
include the most recent statement.
It is also important to know that there are
different statements for different programs.
All of our Child Nutrition Programs use the
In accordance with Federal civil rights law
and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
civil rights regulations and policies, the
USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees,
and institutions participating in or administering
USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating
based on race, color, national origin, sex,
disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation
for prior civil rights activity in any program
or activity conducted or funded by USDA.
The bolded classes shown here are protected
by civil rights regulations.
There is also a Short Statement, that is simply
“This institution is an equal opportunity
USDA allows limited use of this short statement
if you can’t realistically display the entire
statement without changing the nature of the
For example, this shorter statement could
be used on meal program menus.
The “And Justice for All” poster must
be posted anywhere program benefits are available.
This includes anywhere children participating
in Federal Child Nutrition Programs receive
their meals and eat their meals.
This poster should also be posted in the administrative
offices for child nutrition program sponsors
and state and Federal agencies providing Child
Nutrition Program oversight.
This poster should be posted where meal program
participants can see it.
What is a Civil Rights Complaint?
A Civil Rights complaint is a complaint alleging
that discrimination has occurred in violation
of one of the protected classes.
Every sponsoring organization must have a
civil rights complaint procedure.
If you have multiple sites, each site should
have a copy of the procedure and form.
If your district or organization has its own
procedure, you may use that.
Most importantly all employees must be aware
of and understand the procedure.
A link to the USDA complaint form is on the
OSPI Child Nutrition Services webpage.
Use of this form is not required for a person
filing a complaint.
Make sure to include language about your procedure
where parents can find it such as: student
handbooks, on your school meals webpages,
and anywhere where a parent might need the
Always make sure to manage your log, even
if it is a blank tab on an excel spreadsheet,
or a piece of paper.
A person can allege that discrimination has
occurred and file a discrimination complaint
because they feel that they were… Delayed in receiving benefits or services
that others receive
Denied benefits or services that others receive
Treated Differently than others to their disadvantage
Given Disparate Treatment, something which
does not seem discriminatory, but has a discriminatory
impact in practice.
A complaint does not need to be written by
the person alleging that discrimination has
If the complaint is verbal, the sponsor needs
to record the complaint for the person.
Ideally during a verbal complaint the following
information would be collected:
• Contact information for the complainant.
• The specific location and name of the
entity delivering the service or benefit.
• The nature of the incident or action that
led the complainant to feel that discrimination was a factor.
The basis on which the complainant feels
discrimination exists for example:
(race, color, national origin, sex,age, or disability).
The names, titles, and business addresses
of persons who may have knowledge of the discriminatory
The date(s) during which the alleged discriminatory
actions occurred or, if continuing, the duration
of such actions.
Let’s take a look at a scenario.
A man was on the news complaining about a
Summer Food Service Program site.
His children attend the park site and want
to take the meals off-site and were told they
cannot do so.
He is quoted as saying he is being discriminated
against because he is overweight.
Is this a civil rights complaint?
No—It is not a civil rights violation for
a meal site to enforce the rules of the program
to all people participating in the program.
Summer Food Service Program sites must not
let any child take the meals provided off
site, so site operators have full-authority
to enforce this rule.
Additionally, weight is not included in the
protected classes, so claims of discrimination
because of a person’s weight would not be
considered a Civil Rights issue.
Potential civil rights complaints may start
with a phone call, letter, email, fax or any
form of communication where someone feels
they, or someone they know, has received unequal
treatment in any area in the operation of
a Child Nutrition Program
It is a basic right for a person to file a
civil rights complaint, however; there is
a time limit for filing the complaint.
It is very important to document all conversations
and information that might be pertinent to
a possible civil rights complaint because
the person who wishes to file a civil rights
complaint may report as late as 180 days after
the date of the alleged occurrence.
I would encourage you to use the Civil Rights
Complaint form on our OSPI CNS website.
It also includes instructions for completing
To find this form on our website, go to the
OSPI National School Lunch & Breakfast Program
page, then Program Applications and Requirements then
Civil Rights then click on the Civil Rights
Maintaining complete documentation of civil
rights complaints is important for all agencies
involved in civil rights complaint resolution.
Maintaining a complaint log is required by
Child Nutrition Program Sponsors and the State
Agency to be in compliance with Child Nutrition
Remember, someone can report a complaint as
late at 180 days after the date of the alleged
occurrence, so sponsors and the state agency
should maintain thorough documentation of
all events that could potentially result in
a civil rights complaint.
OSPI – Child Nutrition Services has responsibilities
regarding the reporting process.
All complaints received by the office of civil
rights are acknowledged and investigated.
OSPI CNS Webpages have great resources, like
our Civil Rights Reference Sheet.
Assuring compliance with civil rights requirements
is a State agency responsibility and is included
in the Administrative Review process.
For sponsors with multiple sites, it is important
to review civil rights compliance at each
of the sites on an ongoing basis.
During compliance reviews, if an area of noncompliance
is determined, it needs to be resolved.
Written notice should be provided, describing
the noncompliance and the action required
to correct the situation.
When the corrective action has not been completed
within 60 days, OSPI will forward the information
to USDA, which begins a process to resolve
the noncompliance findings.
There are requirements for reasonable accommodations
of persons with disabilities.
When a program participant has a diagnosed
disability that restricts their diet, the
sponsor MUST provide the prescribed food substitutions
or modifications at no charge.
For a sponsor to accommodate a dietary need
based on a diagnosed disability, a medical
note from a recognized medical authority is
See the OSPI Child Nutrition Services Special
Dietary Needs Reference Sheet for additional
There are requirements for language assistance
Institutions are expected to take reasonable steps to assure meaningful access
Reasonable steps depend on:
The number or proportion of limited English proficiency persons from a particular language group
encountered in the population
The frequency with which limited English proficiency individuals come in contact with the program
The nature or importance of the program to the people’s lives
and the resources available and costs
Smaller organizations with smaller budgets are not expected to provide
the same level of language services as other recipients with larger budgets
Recipients should carefully explore the most cost effective means of delivering
competent and accurate language services before limiting services
due to resource concerns
USDA provides the income eligibility forms in various languages
See the OSPI Child Nutrition Services reference sheets for guidelines on limited English proficiency
Here is a map of Washington that shows Percent
of Persons who speak a Language other than
English and speak English Less than “Very
Here you can see a breakdown of the languages
spoken by people in Washington who speak a
language other than English and speak English
Less than “Very Well.”
Spanish speakers make up nearly half of this
Here are some factors to consider:
what experience do you have with the people
that speak this language?
What services were needed?
Community agencies or religious organizations
can help identify populations for whom outreach
is needed and who would benefit from language
the more frequent the contact with a specific
language group, the more likely that enhanced
language services are needed.
The steps that are reasonable to serve a person
on a one-time basis are different than those
when a person is encountered daily
The civil rights division covers many USDA
Would denial or delayed access to services
have serious or life-threatening implications?
For example, delayed access to a special diet because a dietary accommodation form is not available
in that participant’s preferred language
Small districts may have more limited resources
for language assistance than larger ones.
It’s important to use the resources we have
If a district translates information into
a language not available by USDA, we would
love to share it with the rest of the state.
Always see what can be done to accommodate
the Limited English Proficiency individual before limiting services.
Parents may voluntarily choose to decline
the district’s offer of an interpreter and
choose instead to rely on an adult friend
or relative for interpretation services, but
school staff should never suggest this as
an alternative to providing appropriate language
Districts can contract with OSPI for phone
interpretation services and translation services
USDA has translated meal application materials
into 49 different languages
This site is linked from our OSPI CNS website
go to the NSLP page, then click Free and Reduced
Price Information and Verification then click
Translated School Meal Applications
When people are upset or angry and it is not
handled well, there is the potential for people
to believe that they are being discriminated
It is important to work with your staff to
be sure they know how to work with parents
and students so that problems can get resolved
rather than escalating.
Be sure to address these types of problems
with staff during training.
What would you do to address the situation
in the scenario discussed earlier?
One possible way meal site staff could handle
this situation is to show the disgruntled
parent a list of the site rules for the Summer
Food Service Program and explain that the
intention of the rules are to ensure all children
participating in the program receive and eat
nutritious meals in a congregate eating space
where food safety can be monitored.
Explain that not following the site rules
established for this meal program puts the
sites meal service operation at jeopardy.
Invite the parent and his children to join
you for meals at the park again in the future.
It is important to remember that good customer
service decreases the likelihood of all complaints!
It is the responsibility of the sponsor to
document that all food service employees receive
civil rights training each year.
Documentation includes a training agenda including
the date of the training and a sign in sheet
or list of the attendees.
Training is important because sponsors need
to be prepared to handle a civil rights complaint
if one occurs.
In addition to training, the sponsor must
have a policy in place that describes how
the situation will be handled and who the
contact person is for help with handling or
documenting the complaint.
Keeping a civil rights file either in hardcopy
or electronically with complaint forms and
a log sheet is essential for compliance.
You must have a separate sheet for each year,
even if there are no complaints.
Do you have questions about Civil Rights in
Child Nutrition Programs?
Visit the OSPI Child Nutrition Services webpages
for your Child Nutrition Program for reference
sheets and other resources.
Or Contact OSPI Child Nutrition Services at
The Child Nutrition Services Webpages have great resources for you
to refer to and train your staff.