Thursday, October 1, 2009
On an average school day, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides subsidized meals to approximately 30 million school children, including 18 million low-income children. To ensure program integrity, school districts must select a sample of household applications for free or reduced-price meals, contact the households, and verify eligibility. This process (known as household verification) can be burdensome for both school officials and households. Some households do not respond to verification requests. When this happens, children may lose the free or reduced-price benefits even though they may be eligible for those benefits. Direct verification uses information collected by means-tested programs to verify eligibility for free and reduced-price meals without contacting applicants. Potential benefits of direct verification include: enhanced program integrity, less burden for households when no contact is needed, less work for school district officials, and fewer students with school meal benefits terminated because of nonresponse to verification requests. The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-265) permits direct verification of school meal applications and requires the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of direct verification by school districts.