Direct certification data identifies students who are eligible for free school meal benefits without completing an Application for Educational Benefits, based on their participation in the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) provides direct certification data each month to local educational agencies (LEA) that participate in School Nutrition Programs.
Direct certification data is private data on individuals. MDE provides the data on the secure website Cyber-Linked Child Nutrition System (CLiCS 1). LEAs must limit access to direct certification data to those school personnel who have a “need to know,” that is, they need the direct certification data in order to process free school meal benefits for students.
If a parent or guardian disputes the direct certification of their child, the LEA may not disclose to the parent or guardian any DHS data that matched to the student. If upon review of the disputed direct certification it appears that the DHS data was matched to its student in error, the LEA should: (1) inform the parent or guardian that the meal eligibility status of the student will be corrected on school records and (2) explain that the direct certification of the student was based on private DHS data that cannot be shared and which may have been matched to LEA records in error.
LEAs must promptly use the direct certification data to certify students for free school meals following each monthly download of data. For direct certification data received during the school year, meal benefits must be implemented promptly and no later than 10 days from the date on the direct certification file. MDE sends a listserv message each time that new direct certification files are available in CLiCS 1.
Students are considered directly certified for free school meals as of the date that the direct certification report was generated. This date is shown in the lower left corner of the PDF copy of the report.
Direct certification data is available to LEAs in CLiCS 1.
Each student on the direct certification data has been matched on some combination of name, birth date and gender to DHS data on children receiving MFIP or SNAP benefits. Social Security numbers are not used. If it appears that a student may have been matched in error to DHS data for a different child (because neither the name nor address of the adult DHS applicant appears to correspond to the student), then the LEA may not consider the student to be directly certified, unless the LEA has confirmed with the household that the match was accurate.
On the direct certification PDF report, the first bold line for each student is from MARSS data. The second and third lines on the PDF report show the MFIP/SNAP information that matched to the student.
When a student is directly certified, all children in the “household” as defined in 7 Code of Federal Regulations, section 245.2, may be directly certified for free school meals. This is the same definition as used to determine the complete household, or “economic unit,” on an Application for Educational Benefits.
The LEA may be able to use enrollment records to document additional children who are part of the household but were not included in the direct certification match. Also, the notification letter for direct certification asks the household to notify the LEA in writing if there are additional students in the household who were not listed on the notification letter. The LEA must maintain documentation on additional students who are directly certified.
LEAs must notify households with students who have been directly certified. Households with students certified in June and July should be notified of direct certification and should not be sent Applications for Educational Benefits.
The Notification of Approval for Free School Meals letter for directly certified students is available from the School Nutrition Programs > Applications – Student Meals > Direct Certification Web page. The LEA must enter the names of the individual students who have been directly certified for each household.
If the LEA uses the name or address of the MFIP/SNAP applicant to send the notification letter and that name or address is different than the LEA’s records, the LEA must follow these DHS rules: (1) envelopes must be marked “Do Not Forward;” (2) letters may not be sent to out-of-state addresses.