This report responds to the legislative requirement of PL 110-246 to assess the effectiveness of state and local efforts to directly certify children for free school meals. Under direct certification, children are determined eligible for free school meals without the need for household applications by using data from other means-tested programs.
The 2004 Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act required local educational agencies (LEAs) to establish, by school year (SY) 2008-2009, a system of direct certification of children from households that receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamp Program) benefits. The mandate was phased in over three years; the largest LEAs were required to establish direct certification systems first, by SY 2006-2007.
As of SY 2008-2009, all LEAs are subject to the mandate. Seventy-eight percent of LEAs directly certified SNAP-participating students in SY 2008-2009. These LEAs enroll 96 percent of all students in NSLP-participating schools. The median direct certification rate was 72 percent in SY 2008-2009. This is up from 69 percent in SY 2007-2008.