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Direct Certification

A federally mandated process that sponsors must use to certify school-age recipients of CalFresh and CalWORKs benefits as eligible for free school meals without further application.

Direct Certification (DC) is the federally mandated process that School Nutrition Program (SNP) sponsors must use to certify school-age recipients of CalFresh (formerly Food Stamps) 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 county Department of Social or Welfare Services to match enrolled students against those children receiving CalFresh (and CalWORKs) benefits. 

These sponsors may use the Direct Certification Implementation Checklist (DOC) to help them implement DC through an agreement with the county Department of Social or Welfare Services.

Please see the CalFRESH County Contacts for Direct Certification to obtain local welfare or social service office contacts to verify CalFresh participation.

State Data Matching

The 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.

Instructions on how to implement DC using the CALPADS are available on this page at State Level Data Matching through the CALPADS.

If a sponsor directly certifies a student as eligible for free meals, the sponsor must send an eligibility notification to the student’s household. The CDE prototype direct certification notification letter is available on the SNP Eligibility Materials Web page.

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. Please see the CDE MB SFA Ability to Share Student Meal Eligibility Info on this issue.

Child Nutrition Information Payment System

As a reminder, sponsors must report the method they are using to directly certify their students in the Child Nutrition Information Payment System (CNIPS). In the CNIPS Sponsor Application, number A38, select state-level data match if you are using the CALPADS to directly certify students; otherwise, select “other method” (e.g., county Department of Social Services or Welfare list).

If you have any questions, please contact the School Nutrition Programs Unit by phone at 916-322-3005, 916-322-1450, or 800-952-5609, Option 2, to be directed to your SNP Specialist.


State-level data matching through CALPADS

If you are not currently using the CALPADS to obtain the Direct Certification match data and would like to, please instruct your district's CALPADS Administrator to add the “Direct Certification” user role to the appropriate CALPADS user account.

Instructions for Requesting Data Extract from CALPADS Direct Certification Results
  1. Log into the CALPADS with user account that has the “Direct Certification” role and navigate to the Reports menu.
  2. Select “Extracts.”
  3. Select the “Direct Certification” link under the Request CALPADS Files section.
  4. In the Request CALPADS File, choose the preferred filters under the following fields:
  • LEA (This should be pre-populated to your specific LEA.)
  • School (This filter requests an extract for a single school. If left blank, extract will include all schools in the LEA.)
  • Certification Status Code (This filter requests an extract for a specific Certification Status Code; e.g., C – Certified, N – Not Certified, A – Invalid Address, All – all codes.)
  • Student Certified Since (This filter captures a student’s certification from a specified date.)
    • Use the prior month to retrieve the most recent month.
    • Use July 1, to retrieve the entire school year.
  1. Select "Request File."
Instructions for Downloading Extract of Direct Certification Results
  1. Log into CALPADS with user account that has the “Direct Certification” role and navigate to the Reports menu.
  2. Select “Extracts.”
  3. Select the “Direct Certification” link under the Retrieve CALPADS Files section.
  4. Select the “Download” button on right side of requested extract once the file is in a “Complete” status.
  5. Save file to local machine. NOTE: you may want to convert the file to an Excel format

Districts can contact CALPADS Support at calpads-support@cde.ca.gov or request service through the CDE CALPADS Service Request Form Web page.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609  
Last Reviewed: Monday, June 13, 2016
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