Resource | Research | Food/Nutrient Analysis
School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study - III

A key objective of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) is to ensure that children have access to healthy, well-balanced meals. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of USDA sponsored the third SNDA study to provide up-to-date information on the school meal programs, the school environment that affects the programs, the nutrient content of school meals, and the contributions of school meals to students’ diets. Data were collected from a nationally representative sample of districts, schools, and students in school year (SY) 2004-2005. The nutrient content of school meals offered and served was compared to USDA’s current regulatory standards. Students’ diets were assessed using the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), the most up-to-date scientific standards for assessing dietary status.

Resource | Research | Payment Accuracy and Program Integrity
NSLP/SBP Access, Participation, Eligibility, and Certification Study – Erroneous Payments in the NSLP and SBP

Program errors and the risk of erroneous payments in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) continue to be a concern. Slightly more than one in five students were certified inaccurately or erroneously denied benefits in school year (SY) 2005-06. New data estimates the gross cost of school meals erroneous payments due to certification error at about $935 million while other operational errors represent about $860 million. Most of the payment errors resulted from (1) household misreporting of income, (2) administrative errors by school districts in processing applications, and (3) errors by cashiers in counting reimbursable meals. The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) will use this new information to continue the extensive work underway, and step up its commitment to work with Congress and program partners to address these erroneous payments. Actions to reduce these errors must improve accuracy without compromising access for low-income families, must not unduly increase burden on schools, and must be cost-effective.

Resource | Research | Assessing/Improving Operations
Direct Verification Pilot Study: First Year Report

On an average school day, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides subsidized meals to approximately 30 million school children, including 18 million low-income children. To ensure program integrity, school districts must select a sample of household applications for free or reduced-price meals, contact the households, and verify eligibility. This process (known as household verification) can be burdensome for both school officials and households. Some households do not respond to verification requests. When this happens, children may lose the free or reduced-price benefits even though they may be eligible for those benefits. Direct verification uses information collected by means-tested programs to verify eligibility for free and reduced-price meals without contacting applicants. Potential benefits of direct verification include: enhanced program integrity, less burden for households when no contact is needed, less work for school district officials, and fewer students with school meal benefits terminated because of non-response to verification requests. The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-265) permits direct verification of school meal applications and requires the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of direct verification (instead of household verification) by school district.

Resource | Research | Payment Accuracy and Program Integrity
Accuracy of SFA Processing of School Lunch Applications – Regional Office Review of Applications (RORA) 2006

This is the second in a series of annual reports assessing administrative errors associated with School Food Authorities’ (SFAs) approval of applications for free and reduced-price school meals. In school year 2005/06, more than 96 percent of students who were approved for meal benefits on the basis of an application were receiving the correct level of meal benefits, based on the information in the application
files. Three percent of all students who submitted an application for meal benefits had an administrative error in the processing of their applications, down slightly from 3.5 percent in the previous school year, although not statistically significant.

Resource | Research | Assessing/Improving Operations
Data Matching in the National School Lunch Program: 2005

This study examines the feasibility of expanding the use of computer matching for certification and verification of children eligible for free and reduced-price meals funded under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). This study provides a detailed description of how computer matching is currently used and how it could be used. It addresses the feasibility and effectiveness of different practices, from the point of view of both State and local agencies. Computer matching for NSLP has the potential to improve the efficiency and integrity of the certification and verification process without deterring eligible households from applying for free or reduced-price meals. The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-265) mandated direct certification of children in food stamp households, to be phased in over three years beginning in 2006.