The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service Southeast Region announced today Georgia and Tennessee are two of fourteen 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 from low-income households to receive free and reduced-price school meals.

Willie Taylor, Regional Administrator, USDA Food and Nutrition Services

Historically, most students who receive these meals have been certified based on information they submit in an application. 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 decreases errors in school meal program administration and helps ensure children in need receive healthy meals at school,” said USDA, Food and Nutrition Service, Southeast Region Administrator Mr. Willie C. Taylor.  “With direct certification, the administrative burden on schools is reduced and the application process for families is simplified – additionally, it is key to also note that we are dedicated to improved program integrity.”

The remaining twelve states selected to participate in this round of the project are: Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.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. 

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.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) leverages its 15 nutrition assistance programs to ensure that children, low-income individuals, and families have opportunities for a better future through equitable access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food, while building a more resilient food system. Under the leadership of Secretary Tom Vilsack, FNS is fighting to end food and nutrition insecurity for all through programs such as SNAP, school meals, and WIC. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. To learn more, visit www.fns.usda.gov.

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