The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, Public Law 108-265 [42 United States Code 1751 et.
seq.], required all local educational agencies (LEAs) to establish, by school year (SY) 2008-2009, a system to directly certify children as eligible for free school meals when they are members
of households that receive SNAP benefits.
Under direct certification, children are approved for school meal benefits automatically without an application from the child’s household.
Direct certification normally is accomplished through data matching between school enrollment records and public assistance program eligibility records.
The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill, P.L.110-246) [42 USC 1758a.] required FNS to assess the effectiveness of State and local efforts to directly certify children for free school meals when they are members of households receiving SNAP, and to provide annual reports to Congress indicating State progress in this area.
Each year since 2008, FNS has computed direct certification rates for each State using estimates of the number of school-age SNAP participants (between ages 5 and 17) and the number of children from SNAP households directly certified as eligible for free school meals.
These rates have been published in the annual Report to Congress:
Direct Certification in the National School Lunch Program:
State Implementation Progress.
The national calculated percentage of SNAP-participant children directly certified for free school meals was 91 percent in SY 2014–2015, an increase of 4 percentage points from the 87 percent reported for SY 2013-201 4. The Report to Congress for School Year 2007-2008 through School Year 2014-2015 are available at:
Section 749(h) of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2010 (P.L.
111-80) [123 STAT.
2133] provided $22 million that the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) must issue as grants to State agencies that administer the NSLP and have the lowest rates of children directly certified for free meals, for the purpose of improving those rates.
State agencies may use grant funds, in accordance with FNS requirements, to pay costs associated with improving their direct certification rates.
Under this appropriation, in July 2010, FNS announced an RFA for State agencies to apply for Direct Certification planning and implementation grants.
*The purpose of the Direct Certification Improvement Grants described in this RFA is to fund State agency activities in planning and implementing direct certification improvement projects that will help them reach and maintain the direct certification rate benchmarks mandated by the HHFKA.
For this purpose, funds may be used for:
• Making technology improvements; • Providing technical assistance to LEAs; or • Implementing new or revised State or LEA direct certification systems.