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Reducing Paperwork and Connecting Low-Income Children With School Meals: Opportunities under The New Child Nutrition Reauthorization Law

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In enacting the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, Congress made several changes in the eligibility determination process for free and reduced-price school meals. (The eligibility determination process has two parts: “certification,” in which children are approved to receive meal benefits, and “verification,” in which school districts obtain documentation of eligibility for a small sample of certified children.) The changes in the legislation were aimed at improving the accuracy of eligibility determinations without hindering access to meals or overly complicating program administration.

As a result of these changes, school districts face new requirements this year and in coming years. Recognizing the increased administrative burden school districts and state agencies would face, Congress also provided tools to reduce the workload associated with these new requirements; these tools offer the further benefit of simplifying the eligibility determination process for poor families.