Revenue increased by adding “lost” Free & Reduced Students; here’s how to find them

By Colleen Patterson, K-12 Consultant & EH&A Associate

I recently worked with a District who had a 100% pass on ALL ITEMS included in the California School Nutrition Program. Congratulations to them, quite an excellent job! There was just one nagging United States Division of Agriculture benchmark item they missed. It seemed that the State noted that they were not directly certifying 95% of the CalFresh students. How can this be? I have repeatedly been told that they are directly certified at the state level, and then picked up in CALPADS.

This could only mean two things: first the School Nutrition Program had access to more student information than the District did (interesting), and second, the CALPADS direct certification did not pick up all of the students. Detailed below are recommendations from the California School Nutrition Program as to “best practices” related to maximizing student identification:

  1. Download the direct certification extract in CALPADS between the 5-7th of each month, rather than the 4th. This will ensure that you are pulling the current direct certification extract, and not the previous month.
  2. Work with your district to obtain your local county office’s local lists of students on CalFresh and CalWORKs. If the information is not readily provided or a MOU is not reachable, work with the county office to provide those lists without the suggested MOU, as they are required to provide that information if requested. Refer to the CalFresh County Contacts for Direct Certification web page for assistance obtaining the local lists.
  3. Student benefit information cannot be shared without parent-guardian consent, for confidentiality. Eligibility should not be shared to assist with transportation services, and should not be used on student roster forms.
  4. Migrant status is establishing temporary residency in relation to seasonal labor, and immigrant status is establishing permanent residency from another country. If you believe this information may have been misinterpreted on a meal application, reach out to the household to confirm.

Many Districts solely rely on those Direct Certifications from CALPADS. My math tells me that if the District was not directly certifying 95% of the CalFresh Students then at least 5% of the total population was missing. I inquired as to how many students were identified by reviewing the rolls in prior years, and when they did they receive local information? The answer was that in prior years, staff was able to identify approximately 3% more students using the county office’s local lists, but the local lists were no longer available due to MOU problems.

It seems that the County Social Services Administration (SSA) Office MOU insisted on providing lists that included Social Security Identification information, which in turn, required prior approval from the parents. The information necessary for direct certification is only first name, last name, and date of birth. Social Security information is not needed. Upon notification, the County Office of Education, graciously offered to step in to mediate with the County SSA Office in an effort for school districts to conduct the local match required for local direct certification. Local lists assist districts in finding those students that were missed during the CalPads match, and assist with sibling extension to the households. If you’re not receiving your local list, ask for it; it is good for students, families, and especially districts as this can increase revenue significantly.

If you have any questions about identifying and serving all of your free and reduced students, please contact EH&A Associate Colleen Patterson at Colleen@ehanda.com.