InRule® Helps Western State Feed Hungry Children

The National School Lunch Program provides nutritionally balanced lunches, at low or no cost, to children on school days. The program operates in more than 100,000 public and non-profit private schools and residential childcare institutions throughout the United States, providing lunches to more than 30 million school children each day. In 1998, Congress expanded the program to include reimbursement for snacks provided to children in afterschool educational and enrichment programs.

As part of its School Nutrition Program, a state located in the western United States serves 24,000 breakfasts and 80,000 lunches to children each day.

Direct certification allows children to be automatically eligible to receive School Lunch program benefits based on existing participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) or foster care. The direct certification process streamlines a child’s ability to join the National School Lunch Program by eliminating the need for families and school district staff to prepare, complete and process applications. The result is that children are able to get access to free, balanced meals more quickly with minimal effort by parents and district staff.

Overview
The State agency in charge of administering the School Nutrition Program wanted to automate the process of direct certification to streamline benefit access for children. By bringing together disparate sources of data from SNAP and TANF, the agency could directly certify children who were already members of those programs based on lists provided by the United States Health and Human Services (HHS).

However, the Federal government does not allow social security numbers to be stored with HHS records so matching would have to be done on the basis of name, birthdate, address school and other factors.

For this state, the main challenge of direct certification was with incomplete or duplicate records. For example, if a child was enrolled in SNAP or TANIF and they moved, he or she could be listed as a student at two separate schools or as residing at two separate addresses, at the same time. Name discrepancies present another challenge. In some records, a student may be listed as Jennifer; in another record, she might be referred to as Jenny.

To overcome issues related to incomplete, inconsistent or duplicate records, the agency deployed InRule® as part of its direct certification initiative. InRule enables eligibility matching through algorithms that can identify records that are close and could represent the same individual. InRule also allows both technical and non-technical users to write and manage matching rules without making modifications at the code level.

Results
Prior to deployment of InRule, the agency had a direct certification rate of approximately 60 percent. As they began deploying InRule for matching and eligibility, they set a new goal of 80 percent. Two years later, the state has a direct certification rate exceeding 90 percent, enabling more children to receive meal benefits in a timely manner.

By streamlining their direct certification program, the state has been able to add more than 50,000 children to the School Lunch Program and provide them with healthy balanced meals.

Next Steps
The agency plans to expand the system beyond SNAP and TANIF to allow for direct certification for individuals who are eligible based on their association with the state’s foster care system or Indian reservations.

By streamlining their direct certification program, the state has been able to add more than 50,000 children to the School Lunch Program and provide them with healthy balanced meals.