USDA to streamline & enhance National School Lunch Program

March 19, 2012

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service (USDA/FNS) has announced that it is collaborating with six states on new demonstration projects to connect eligible low-income children with free school meals automatically based on information received from Medicaid. The new process will allow for administrative efficiencies, reduce improper payments, and streamline efforts to provide access to critical nutrition for kids across the nation.

Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, and Pennsylvania will begin their respective projects on July 1 for school year 2012–2013. Kentucky and Pennsylvania plan to conduct statewide projects while the others will do so in select locations. USDA, in coordination with states and program operators in over 100,000 schools, is pursuing alternative business processes, such as direct certification for school meals based on participation in other means-tested programs.

The passage of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 marks the first time that states have been allowed to test this new process, called direct certification, with Medicaid information. Under the legislation, the areas selected to participate will be expanded in future years, which will allow additional states to participate. USDA/FNS will conduct a formal study to evaluate the effectiveness of the projects. The study will estimate the following impacts:

  • The extent to which direct certification for each demonstration category reaches children who are eligible for free school meals but are not certified to receive them;
  • The extent to which the projects directly certify eligible children who are enrolled for free school meals based on a household application; and
  • The effect direct certification with the Medicaid program has on federal and state costs, and on participation in the school lunch and breakfast programs.

Press release