Louisiana Fit Kids Blog

Louisiana to Participate in School Meals Project Enabling Direct Certification Through Medicaid


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Project Will Provide Opportunity for More Children to Receive Free or Reduced-Price School Meals

DALLAS, Dec. 14, 2021 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service Southwest Region today announced that Louisiana is one of eight states that have been selected to participate in the expansion of a demonstration project to evaluate the impact of using Medicaid eligibility data to directly certify students for free and reduced-price school meals. The newest round of this demonstration creates an important opportunity to further test the impact of Medicaid Direct Certification, which was first initiated through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Seven other states were also selected to participate in this round of the project: Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

USDA School Meals Project Graphic

The direct certification process makes it easier for children from low-income households to receive free and reduced-price school meals. Historically, most students who receive free or reduced-price school meals have been certified based on information they submit in an application. Families can also be deemed eligible because they participate in one of a few benefit programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Adding Medicaid to the list of benefit programs that can 'directly certify' a student to receive free or reduced-price meals is a win-win for students, families, and school officials. This means less paperwork for families and fewer school meal applications for school districts to process and verify.

"Direct certification works to decrease errors in school meal program administration and ensures children in need aren’t mistakenly left behind," said USDA, Food and Nutrition Service, Southwest Regional Administrator Bill Ludwig. "By eliminating applications, direct certification not only reduces burden on families and schools, but also is a key error-reduction strategy for the school meals programs in Louisiana."

"Providing reliable access to nutritious meals has never been more important, as our nation continues to deal with the pandemic and related issues," said John Dupre, State Director of Child Nutrition Programs for the Louisiana Department of Education. "This opportunity for additional partnership with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service allows the Louisiana Department of Education expanded ability to provide meals to children at minimal cost and no additional burden to the family."

Since school year 2012-2013, USDA has authorized demonstration projects allowing states to test direct certification with Medicaid. With the addition of eight states this week, 27 states are now participating in these projects, representing approximately 75% of students nationwide. An evaluation by USDA found that these projects allowed more than one million students to be certified for free meals and nearly 260,000 students for reduced-price meals in school year 2017-2018.

The Biden Administration is committed to expanding direct certification opportunities and certifying more eligible children for free and reduced-price meals without an application. For more information, visit the FNS webpage on Direct Certification.