Case Study of National School Lunch Program Verification Outcomes in Large Metropolitan School Districts
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) provide federal financial assistance and commodities to schools serving lunches and breakfasts that meet required nutrition standards. Under the NSLP and the SBP, millions of American students receive a free or reduced-price lunch and/or breakfast every school day. Concern has grown recently that many students who participate in the program may in fact be ineligible for the benefits they receive. School Food Authorities (SFAs) that operate the NSLP must verify the eligibility of a small sample of approved applications by requiring documentation of income or receipt of food stamps or cash assistance. The verification process is designed to identify and deter errors in each district. However, the system does not provide data on the accuracy of benefit determination nationwide. This report presents the results of a case study of verification in 21 large metropolitan SFAs around the country. The study examined outcomes of the verification process and made an independent assessment of income eligibility of households with specific verification outcomes using data from in-person interviews with families.