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USDA reports low participation of SNAP children in Mass in free school meals

In its October 2010 Report to Congress on “Direct Certification in the National School Lunch Program”, USDA Food and Nutrition Service reports that Massachusetts has one of the lowest percent of “categorically eligible children” certified for free school meals for the school year 2009-2010. “Categorically eligible” children are children who participate in the SNAP program or live in a household that receives SNAP benefits. The USDA FNS report is available at: http://www.fns.usda.gov/

Massachusetts is listed at second worst in the United States, with only 61% of categorically eligible low income kids getting free school meals in the state. (See Figure 8, Page 20 of report). This information is very troubling, if accurate. We’d like to hear from Food SNAP Coalition members who are aware of any children getting SNAP (or living in SNAP households) who were not automatically certified for free meals by their local schools. The Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) is actively working on a USDA grant to improve participation. MLRI and staff from Project Bread will be meeting with EOHHS, DTA and DESE to discuss the grant, the current participation numbers and other strategies used by higher performing states that might improve enrollment in free and reduced school meals. Any information you can share about how things are going in your local school districts would be appreciated.

Here’s a fact sheet from the Food Research Action Center on the basic eligibility rules for school meals and the direct certification process: http://frac.org/ and a recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities describing the new USDA “categorical eligibility” to include any child living in a SNAP household, even if the child is not getting SNAP him or herself.

 

REMINDER: Next Food SNAP Coalition Meeting, Tuesday, November 30th from 10 to Noon, St Francis House in Boston.