A program beginning next school year will increase student access to nutritious meals and ease the burden of paperwork and financial strain on families.

Ohio is one of 14 states selected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to participate in the Direct Certification with Medicaid Demonstration Project. Ohio’s participation, which starts in the 2023-2024 school year, will allow households that receive Medicaid to automatically qualify for free or reduced-price school meals for their school-age children.

Direct certification with Medicaid uses existing data to certify children for free or reduced-price meals without an additional application. This program will ensure more students receive the benefit of a school meal.

“There’s a critical connection between meeting a student’s basic needs and their success in the classroom,” said Interim Superintendent of Public Instruction Stephanie Siddens. “The Ohio Department of Education is thrilled to offer direct certification through the Medicaid application. This program will remove barriers for families and allow more of our most vulnerable students to eat healthy meals at school so they can focus on learning.”

“Nutritious meals are an integral part of each instructional day for students. Direct certification works to ensure children in need aren’t mistakenly left behind,” said FNS Midwest Regional Administrator, Dr. Vista Suarez Fletcher. “It means less paperwork for families and fewer school meal applications for school districts to process and verify.”

Direct Certification with Medicaid began in 2012 with seven states. In the 2023-2024 school year, 39 states will use Medicaid data to qualify students for free and reduced-price lunches. The Ohio Department of Education estimates that, as of October 2022, 677,688 children qualify for free or reduced meals. For many years, Ohio has been directly certifying students for free meals if their household received SNAP benefits or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Source: Ohio Department of Education; Image by WOKANDAPIX from Pixabay