Abt Associates: Bold thinkers driving real-world impact
For Immediate Release
February 8, 2011
CAMBRIDGE, MA—Children who get free or reduced-priced school meals may be able to keep their benefits without the burden to families of intrusive questions or to schools of more paperwork, thanks to recent pilot projects evaluated by Abt Associates. The four-year study, completed in late 2010 for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, found that government health insurance records, already submitted by families, could be used to verify low-income children’s eligibility for these meals, thus eliminating the need for school districts to contact parents for income details.
Abt Associates, a leading global health and social policy research and program implementation firm, reported that Medicaid and the State’s Children’s Health Insurance Program can serve as direct proof of a child’s eligibility for school meals.
"This is a win-win solution," said Chris Logan, director of the study and senior associate at Abt Associates. "Thousands of eligible children lose meal benefits each year just because of verification paperwork. With this new option, these children keep their benefits, their parents or guardians do not have to answer uncomfortable questions, and schools have less administrative burden and costs."
On an average school day, the National School Lunch Program provides subsidized meals to approximately 32 million school children, including 20 million low-income children. To ensure that the program is being implemented as intended, school districts must select a sample of household applications for free or reduced-price meals, contact the households and verify eligibility. "This process can take a lot of work for the school district," said Logan, "and it is invasive to families."
In addition, according to Logan, some households do not respond to attempts to contact them. "When this occurs, children may lose the benefits for which they are eligible, going hungry or missing out on the healthy meals they would otherwise have received in school," he explained.
Logan said the direct verification method of confirming children’s eligibility for free or reduced-priced school meals would not only mean less work for school district officials and lower burden for households, but also would enhance program integrity and ensure that fewer students with school meal benefits were terminated because verification requests went unanswered.
About Abt Associates
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates was ranked as one of the top 25 global research firms in 2010. The employee-owned company has multiple offices in the U. S. and program offices in nearly 40 countries.
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research, evaluation and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators. The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in more than 40 countries.