USDA launches digital applications for Child Nutrition Programs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has rolled out a web-based prototype for students to apply for free or reduced-price meals, the goal of which is to reduce errors and streamline the process for foodservice departments and students.

Nutrition programs will be able to use the web application in addition to traditional paper versions, which also have been updated based on new research. The digital experience can be modified by states as well as individual schools, and will include prompts and feedback that aim to guide the user and reduce error rates.

The new technology is part of a larger USDA initiative to create a more swift and accurate system of qualifying students who do not receive proper nutrition. Direct certification from students who are enrolled in food assistance programs and the Community Eligibility Provision in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act—which grants universal free or reduced-price lunch to districts with more than 40% directly enrolled—also seek to lighten the load for directors and enroll more eligible students.  

The House’s Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill could change the Community Eligibility Provision. If passed before Congress adjourns in December, it would raise the participation threshold from 40% to 60% directly enrolled students. The bill would also offer a block grant to three undetermined states, exempting them from federal regulations.

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