Direct Certification (DC) is the federally mandated process that School Nutrition Program (SNP) sponsors must use to certify school-age recipients of CalFresh and CalWORKs benefits as eligible for free school meals without further application. Charter schools may implement DC by using either a local data match through their county’s Department of Social or Welfare Services and/or using the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). Private schools may implement DC by using a local data match with their county’s Department of Social or Welfare Services.
Local Level Data Matching
Private schools, public school districts, charter schools, and COEs (sponsors) may establish a local agreement with the local County Welfare Department (CWD) to match enrolled students against those children receiving CalFresh (and CalWORKs) benefits.
State Data Matching
The California Department of Education (CDE) has established a statewide DC system that matches data from the student information stored in the CALPADS against statewide data on CalFresh and CalWORKs recipients. The CALPADS provides the DC results to all public schools, COEs, and charter schools through its electronic notification process.
Statement of Confidentiality
California has state laws that protect and govern free and reduced-price meal applications, and these state laws are more restrictive than the applicable federal regulations. California Education Code (EC) governs the disclosure of meal records. Specifically, EC Section 49558(a) states:
“All applications and records … concerning any individual made or kept by any public officer or agency in connection with the administration of any provision of this code relating to free or reduced-price meal eligibility shall be confidential, and may not be open to examination for any purpose not directly connected with the administration of any free or reduced-price meal program, or any investigation, prosecution, or criminal or civil proceeding conducted in connection with the administration of any free or reduced-price meal program. “
This EC Section does not prohibit districts from sharing meal eligibility information to ensure that individual students continue to receive school meals when moving from one school district to another, either at the beginning of or during the school year. Both districts must ensure that the information remains confidential and is used solely for determining a student’s eligibility in a meal program.