A Better Way to Certify Children for School Meals

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November 3rd, 2016

eScholar DirectMatch, a new solution for school meals

school meals direct certification directmatchToday, I’m proud to announce the launch of eScholar DirectMatch, a new solution we’ve developed to help states use direct certification to identify eligible children for free and reduced-price school meals. You can see our news release with the announcement. In this post, I want to share with you more details about the impetus for developing eScholar DirectMatch and how it has an impact on children.

Like many of our solutions, the development of eScholar DirectMatch began with a conversation with one of our customers. One of our eScholar Uniq-ID customers approached us about a different kind of data matching requirement. This was not about assigning unique identifiers, but about identifying eligible students for school meal benefits using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) files through a process called direct certification. Historically, students have had to bring in meal forms that had highly sensitive information on it for schools to determine meal program eligibility. As you can imagine, this method could create a significant administrative burden, but it could also lead to many errors in identifying eligibility for free and reduced-price school meals.

An error is not just an error in this case.

An error means that a child may not be eating lunch. An error means that a child who lives in a food-insecure household may not get to eat a nutritious meal all day. Studies have shown that children who attend school hungry have a host of struggles in school: inability to concentration, behavior issues, poor academic performance, and more. Considering that the USDA’s National School Lunch Program serves about 31.6 million students annually, this affects a lot of children and has a significant impact on their ability to do well in school.

Without a robust matching system, direct certification is a challenge. With eScholar DirectMatch, states have a straight forward way to directly certify students for free and reduced-price meals with just a SNAP file. We have a road map to match to other file types in the future as well. I’ll be doing a webinar for agencies later this month to provide an overview and demo with my colleague Karen Addesso, so if you’re interested in learning more, please sign up.

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With just a SNAP record and student enrollment data, eScholar DirectMatch quickly and accurately identifies children who are eligible for free and reduced school meals.

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