Federal regulations require that all Local Education Agencies (LEAs) participating in the School Breakfast Program (SBP) or National School Lunch Program (NSLP) conducting standard counting and claiming procedures select and verify a sample of their approved free and reduced price meal applications on file as of October 1st by November 15th of each year.
Income eligibility obtained for the Child Nutrition Programs is used for numerous initiatives and programs. As more and more persons, programs and agencies rely on this data, the validity of this information is significant.
Income Verification is an annual requirement. Verification is the confirmation of eligibility for free and reduced price meals under the NSLP and SBP. Verification is only required when eligibility is determined through the application process, not through direct certification conducted with an Assistance Program or officials or agencies that documented Other Source Categorical Eligibility. Verification must include either confirmation of income eligibility or confirmation that the child or any member of the household is receiving assistance under Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or that a child is Other Source Categorically Eligible.
Verification may include confirmation of any other information required on the application, such as household size. The application/verification process is being intensely scrutinized at the federal level as verification often results in a substantial number of changes in eligibility. This occurs when a family either fails to respond or cannot substantiate what they reported on their application. Consequently, verification requirements have become more stringent in order to improve the fiscal integrity of the child nutrition programs and the verification process. It is essential that verification efforts be completed on time, that changes in eligibility are implemented for all family members and that adequate records of your efforts are maintained. The selection of applications cannot target discrimination against anyone on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, sex, or disability.
Getting households to respond to verification requests can be challenging for SFA staff. If households do not respond, they lose their benefits regardless of their actual eligibility. In addition, the number of approved applications an SFA is required to verify is impacted by the number of responses they were able to obtain the previous year.
To assist SFAs with addressing these issues, FNS has developed a Verification Toolkit. The Toolkit contains a collection of resources that SFAs can use in their efforts to improve verification response rates and the overall efficiency of the process. These resources were developed by FNS but feature input from State and local officials from around the country. They were informed by two years of formal studies conducted by FNS and the Office of Evaluation Science’s Social & Behavioral Sciences Team, as well as through a public contest and from informal conversations with program operators. To view the Toolkit, please visit https://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/verification-toolkit.