Release No. 0114.10
Contact: USDA Office of Communications
USDA Targets Improvement of School
Meal Enrollment with Aid to States
Direct Certification Breaks down
barriers and streamlines access for Children in Need
WASHINGTON, March 9, 2010 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced
approximately $1.9 million in grants to five State agencies to increase
enrollment in school meal programs through direct certification and verification
processes. Direct certification allows States and local educational agencies to
automatically certify children enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
Program (SNAP) or the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program (TANF) for
free school meals without the need for household applications. Medicaid records
also can be matched to simplify verification of eligibility for school meals
"Direct certification and verification are critical tools in ensuring that
every eligible child is enrolled in a school meal program and these grants
enable the school food authorities to maximize the number of eligible students
participating in school nutrition programs," said Secretary Vilsack. "USDA is
actively pursuing opportunities to reduce hunger, promote program access, and
improve the overall health and nutrition of children and these grants will help
us reach those goals. We look forward to building on our successes with the
upcoming Child Nutrition Act reauthorization and we will work with States to
expand the use and effectiveness of processes such as this."
In recent weeks, the Obama Administration has detailed ways it is seeking to
improve the quality of the
School Lunch and
School Breakfast Programs, increase the number of kids participating in
these programs, and ensure schools have the resources they need to make program
changes, including training for school food service workers, upgraded kitchen
equipment, and additional funding for meal reimbursements for schools that are
enhancing nutrition and quality. President Obama has proposed a $10 billion
investment over the next 10 years to help meet these objectives, and to allow
additional fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products to be
served in our school cafeterias and an additional one million students to be
served the healthy diets in school.
Authorized by public law 108-265, the grants being announced today help State
agencies implement solutions to expedite the certification process for students
eligible to receive free and reduced price meals in the National School Lunch
and School Breakfast Programs. States can use grant funds to identify eligible
students by matching school records and federal assistance program data.
"These grants are intended to improve access, increase accuracy, and reduce
paperwork in school nutrition programs by simplifying the certification and
verification process," said USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and
Consumer Services Kevin Concannon. "The funding is an important opportunity to
make access to school meals as easy as possible for children in need throughout
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service oversees 15 nutrition assistance programs
that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. The
programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. The
National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs provide nutritionally
balanced, free and low-cost meals to 31 million and 11 million children,
respectively, each school day. SNAP puts healthy food in reach for over 38
million Americans each month, half of whom are children.
Earlier this month, First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let's Move!
campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation so that children born
today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight. The campaign has four primary
tenets: helping parents make healthy food choices, serving healthier food in
schools; improving access to healthy, affordable food; and increasing physical
activity. The Administration has introduced its plans to improve school meals,
introduced a financing initiative to reduce food deserts, implemented new
research tools that detail local food environments and health outcomes,
including grocery store access and disease and obesity prevalence, and announced
a broad range of public/private commitments to solve America's childhood obesity
epidemic. Learn more by visiting
The five states receiving the FY 2009 Direct Certification & Verification
- Massachusetts - $583,200 to leverage their current technology and
develop online applications to query TANF, SNAP and Medicaid participant
databases so that they can expand their current direct certification and
verification process and improve participation rates.
- Nebraska - $200,000 to create a database that will interface with state
record systems and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services
database to match children enrolled in SNAP and TANF programs.
- Pennsylvania - $630,132 to leverage state Geographic Information
Software, Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program information
for data matching and streamlining enrollment verification processes.
- Rhode Island - $334,298 to enhance their existing software to validate
and synchronize the school meal eligibility data.
- Texas - $177,433 to expand their existing direct verification system to
provide matching capability with TANF, SNAP, Medicaid and State Children's
Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
For more information on the Direct Certification & Verification Grants visit