Sometimes There Is Such a Thing as a Free Lunch

December 4, 2012 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

Government collaboration to help needy families can only be positive. That’s why I’m glad to see the Food and Nutrition Service is expanding a demonstration program with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide free meals to needy kids using direct certification, which helps to reduce the burden of school lunch applications for households and school districts, improve the accuracy of eligibility determinations and increase the number of eligible children certified for free meals.

FNS recently issued a request for applications to state agencies that administer the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs to participate in a demonstration project to evaluate the effectiveness of conducting direct certification with the Medicaid program. Under the demonstration, eligible children are directly certified for free school means based on income and participation information received from Medicaid agencies through automated data matching processes, with no further action required from the household.

In 2011, Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, New York and Pennsylvania were selected to participate in the demonstration projects beginning in the current school year. FNS plans to expand the projects and seeks applications from state agencies to either participate or expand their participation for the 2013-2014 school year.

The demonstration has three purposes:

  • to determine the potential of direct certification with Medicaid to reach children who are eligible for free school meals, but are not certified to receive the meals;
  • to determine the potential of direct certification with Medicaid to directly certify eligible children who are enrolled for free school meals based on a household application; and
  • to provide an estimate of the effect on federal costs and on participation in the school lunch and breakfast programs.

A collaborative effort such as this to attempt to reduce the governmental red tape for needy families is definitely encouraging. State agencies seeking more information on the demonstration project can find out more here. States must notify FNS of their intent to apply by Dec. 21, and applications must be received by FNS no later than Feb. 5, 2013. FNS will host a Dec. 11 webinar for state agencies to provide information on the direct certification with Medicaid demonstration projects and the application process.

I would hope that this program proves successful and can be expanded nationwide at some point. If there ever was a chance for automated data matching processes to be truly beneficial, this is it.

Let us know how you feel about this demonstration program. Also, if there are any other demonstration programs that you would like to see featured here, send us a comment.


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