School food authorities (SFAs) participating in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program are required to verify income for a small percentage of households approved for free or reduced price meals each school year. However, getting households to respond to verification requests can be challenging for SFA staff. If households do not respond, they lose their benefits regardless of their actual eligibility. In addition, the number of approved applications an SFA is required to verify is impacted by the number of responses they were able to obtain the previous year.
To assist SFAs with addressing these issues, FNS has developed a Verification Toolkit. The Toolkit contains a collection of resources that SFAs can use in their efforts to improve verification response rates and the overall efficiency of the process. These resources were developed by FNS but feature input from state and local officials from around the country. They were informed by two years of formal studies conducted by FNS and the Office of Evaluation Science’s Social & Behavioral Sciences Team, as well as through a public contest and from informal conversations with program operators.
Most resources in the toolkit (links below) contain a page with information about “How to Use This Resource” that explains a little bit about the origin of the information, who the intended audience is, and possibilities for how it can be used.
- Strategies to Improve Response Rates in the Verification Process
- Navigating the Verification Process: A Diagram for Households
- A Guide to Conducting Verification Before October 1st (for more information, see policy memo SP42-2017). To customize a verification timeline for yourself, use this file as a starting point.
- Redesigned Verification Notification Letter (rich text, with images)
- Redesigned Verification Notification Letter (plain text, without images)
- Flyer for Households – Submit Verification Documents with Your Smartphone!
- Sources of Income for School Meal Eligibility