WASHINGTON, July 28, 2011 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced new investments in New Hampshire and Idaho to help eliminate childhood hunger and improve nutrition and health for school-aged kids. The grants are awarded to the two state agencies to reduce paperwork and expedite certification of students for free meals in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs through a process called direct certification.
"Direct certification is a useful tool that allows us to get healthy meals to our kids so that they get access to the nutrition they need to learn and thrive," said Vilsack. "These grants will help states improve their direct certification process so that fewer eligible families will have to fill out duplicative paperwork for healthy school meals."
With direct certification, states and local, educational agencies can automatically enroll students from households already participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations without requiring the child's family to complete an additional application. The investments announced today are intended to help improve direct certification rates for children in households receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
Agencies administering the National School Lunch Program in New Hampshire and Idaho were chosen to receive the grants provided by the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Act of 2010. Idaho will receive $513,190 and New Hampshire, $109,916. USDA's Food and Nutrition Service expects to award additional grants to states meeting eligibility requirements each quarter over the next year. Direct Certification Grants totaling nearly $3 million have been made to 15 states since January, including those announced today.
Under Secretary Kevin Concannon underscored the importance of the grants, "Direct certification is a trifecta for schools, parents and children. Schools and parents benefit from reduced paperwork, and children get better access to healthy school meals.," he said. "And these grants help states do that."
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that, in addition to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and National School Lunch Program, also include the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, and the Summer Food Service Program. Taken together, these programs comprise America's nutrition safety net.