Direct Certification (DC) promotes participation in school meal programs by simplifying access to free and reduced price meals. Children are automatically (categorically) eligible for free or reduced price school meals based on their eligibility as a foster child or based on their households participation in these programs: FoodShare (SNAP), W-2 cash benefits (TANF), Medicaid, or the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).
When a student is directly certified for free meals, the student's family does not need to complete the application for free or reduced-price meals. DC decreases administrative burden for school staff and families while improving the integrity of the certification process, as it establishes eligibility without the completion of an application.
DC Calendar of Requirements
Most districts and private schools participating in the National School Lunch Program are required to run full enrollment student input files:
- 1st: beginning of the year (between second week of July and first day of school)
- 2nd: three months later (around month of December)
- 3rd: six months after first run (around month of March)
- 4th: between March 15 and April 1 (for CEP proxy report)
Exceptions: Community Eligibility Provision, Special Milk Program, and Residential Child Care Institutions (see the appropriate Calendar of Requirements)
- Create a student input file (typically from your Student Information System (SIS)).
- Log into the DC Portal.
- Upload the student input file, select Full or Partial Enrollment, then click "submit."
- Download the completed student match output file.
- This file provides a code for each student, which shows whether the student is directly certified for free or reduced price meals and identifies the program matched.
- What are the Eligible Match Codes? See Eligibility Codes and Error Codes in the DC User Guide
- Sample Student Match Output File
- Upload match file into your SIS according to your specific software instructions, if applicable.
- Verify or manually update students for Extension of Benefits.
- Print/Mail notification letters to families.
- Eligibility Manual
- Direct Certification Approval Letter (Spanish) (Hmong)
- SFAs are required to send a notification letter to households if a student is approved for meal benefits through DC.
- Sharing Information Letters
- Students found eligible through DC must be offered the same opportunity to waive or subsidize any district fees (e.g. registration, athletic fees, etc.) based on a student’s free or reduced price meal status through the Sharing Information with Other Programs form.