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Food and Nutrition Assistance Research Database

Project: Direct Certification and its Impact on Errors in the National School Lunch Program
Award Year: 2000
Amount of award, fiscal 2000: $779,364.00
Institution: Mathematica Policy Research
Principal Investigator: Phillip Gleason
Status: Completed
Detailed Objective: This project assesses the prevalence of direct certification in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and its effects on certification, participation, and verification error rates. A nationally representative sample of School Food Authorities (SFA's) will be surveyed to gather information from NSLP applications for free and reduced-price meals and from State and local welfare offices.

In recent years, SFA's have greatly expanded direct certification, under USDA's encouragement. Under direct certification, students whose families receive food stamps or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families are automatically certified to receive free school meals, bypassing the usual application process. The policy is designed to reduce administrative burden and to expand access to free school meals for poor children. A 1996 study found that direct certification led to small increases in the percentage of students certified for free school meals and the percentage eating free lunches each day. SFA's reported that direct certification saved them time and money.

This project will update the 1996 Study of Direct Certification. The current study has three objectives: (1) to estimate the prevalence of direct certification as well as the prevalence of methods used to implement direct certification, both at the SFA and student levels, (2) to examine the incidence of errors in certification for free and reduced-price school meals, both among students who become certified via application and among those who are directly certified, and (3) to estimate the impacts of direct certification on rates of certification for free and reduced-price meals and participation in the National School Lunch Program, and on certification error rates. A telephone survey will be conducted with the heads of SFA's in a nationally representative sample of 1,200 public school districts to collect information on SFAs' experiences with direct certification as well as the data items necessary to measure certification rates, participation rates, and selected error rates. To measure the direct certification error rate, administrative data will be collected from the State agencies that work with school districts in conducting direct certification. To estimate the impacts of direct certification on certification, participation, and error rates, the survey data and State welfare/food stamp agency administrative data will be supplemented with State-level data on rates of certification and participation to be collected from the Food and Nutrition Service of USDA.

Topic: Program Integrity, Program Operations, School Lunch and Breakfast
Output:
Gleason, P., T. Tasse, K. Jackson, and P. Nemeth. Direct Certification in the National School Lunch Program--Impacts on Program Access and Integrity: Executive Summary, E-FAN-03-009, USDA, ERS, October 2003.
Gleason, P., T. Tasse, K. Jackson, and P. Nemeth. Direct Certification in the National School Lunch Program--Impacts on Program Access and Integrity: Final Report, E-FAN-03-009, USDA, ERS, October 2003b.

Last updated: Wednesday, November 12, 2014

For more information contact: Victor Oliveira