WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2011 – USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon today announced awards to help four states improve enrollment in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs through a process called direct certification. Direct certification requires states and local educational agencies to automatically enroll students from households already participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, without an additional application from the child’s family to assist low-income households with children eligible for free meals at school.
“Direct certification helps ensure that every eligible child has access to the healthy nutrition provided by USDA’s school meals programs,” said Concannon. “Today’s awards will assist states in implementing their plans to streamline the certification process so that children can get access to the nutrition they need to learn and thrive, while decreasing administrative errors and waste.”
Florida, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were chosen to receive the grants totaling about $2.2 million, provided by the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Act of 2010. The grants are intended to help states improve direct certification rates for children in households receiving SNAP benefits.
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) expects to award additional grants to states meeting eligibility requirements each quarter over the next year. Twenty Direct Certification Grants totaling more than $6 million have been made to 16 states since January, including the grants announced today.
Championed by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her Let’s Move! initiative, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 marked a great win for the nearly 32 million school children that participate in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs each school day. USDA is working to implement historic reforms that will mark the most comprehensive change to food in schools in more than a generation. USDA’s efforts to improve and enhance the school food environment include: updated school meals nutrition standards to increase fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy; science-based standards for all foods and beverages sold on the school campus; performance-based funding increases for schools – the first real increase in 30 years; and training and technical assistance to help schools meet improved standards.
FNS 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.