Direct Certification

Direct certification is a means for determining child eligibility for free meals benefits based on documentation obtained directly from the appropriate state or local agency or other authorized individual. In most situations, direct certification of a child’s eligibility status should not involve the household. The communication exchange should be between an appropriate agency and the local educational agency (LEA)/school.

Direct Certification for Assistance Programs
The direct certification process is used by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to notify school districts of students who can be approved for free school meals based on Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) data, without any application from the family for school meal benefits. The DHS data identifies children who are automatically eligible for free school meals because they have already been approved for participation in Food Stamps or the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP).

Public schools receive direct certification data several times each year and are required to use the data to certify students for meal benefits. A nonpublic school that participates in the National School Lunch Program may obtain direct certification data by uploading the school's student enrollment data using the Cyber-Linked Interactive Child Nutrition System (CLiCS) system (where the direct certification reports are located).

Direct certification for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households must be conducted using the electronic data-match process. A letter provided by SNAP to households to be submitted to an LEA no longer meets the requirement for SNAP direct certification. However, if a household provides a SNAP eligibility letter to the LEA/school, it must be accepted but is not considered direct certification. For information on reporting eligibility for verification, refer to Part 8 – Verification in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Eligibility Manual for School Meals.

Direct Certification for Other Source Categorically Eligible Programs
Direct certification can be conducted through a computer/electronic match between appropriate state or local agencies, officials from other source programs, and/or LEA officials such as the LEA’s homeless liaison. Direct certification for these programs may also be conducted using lists of eligible participants provided to the state or LEA from appropriate officials from Other Source Categorically Eligible Programs. Letters provided by such programs to eligible participants may also be used for direct certification. No application is necessary if eligibility for these programs is determined through the direct certification process. For additional information about direct certification, refer to Part 5 – Categorical Eligibility in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Eligibility Manual for School Meals.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Memos
Links to key USDA memos on Applications-Student Meals are provided below.

Data on children qualified for meal benefits may be shared between organizations that administer federal child nutrition programs. For example, a school participating in the National School Lunch Program may share data on students eligible for free and reduced-price school meals with an organization that sponsors other federal child nutrition programs--February 2008.