Increasing SNAP access supports the whole school community.

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SNAP Supports Schools
three children in front of the school bus

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) supports families and kids to have the food they need, but it also supports schools.

Increasing SNAP access for eligible families helps schools to

  • Reach more kids with free school meals while saving administration costs and staff time. SNAP participation also boosts school nutrition department revenue by increasing the number of meals that get full federal reimbursement. 

  • Secure money for education programs and supports like libraries and internet access. 

  • Improve student education outcomes including increasing the chance of high school graduation. 

  • Provide more resources for students, families, and their communities like discounted internet service and identifying areas eligible for free community-wide afterschool and summer meal programs. 

  • Become eligible for and increase revenue potential in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) which allows schools to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students.

Sharing about SNAP in your school community helps eligible families know about the program while also providing more resources for your school. 

Read our resource to learn additional ways SNAP benefits the entire school community.

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Direct Certification
school meal of hamburger and fresh fruits and vegetables

Direct certification plays an important role in the connection between SNAP and schools. Students who are in a household receiving SNAP are directly certified for free school meals.

Direct certification plays an important role in the connection between SNAP and schools. Students who are in a household receiving SNAP are directly certified for free school meals. This means students automatically qualify for free meals and their families don’t need to submit a school meal application. Direct certification saves time for families and schools while also lowering school administrative costs. Direct certification also improves access to school meals for students from households with low-incomes.  

State systems provide the direct certification information to schools so the school nutrition department can link their enrolled students to the participating student and family information provided by the state. It’s important to check direct certification lists regularly to ensure all students are captured. A child only needs to be in a household receiving SNAP at some point in the year to be directly certified for free school meals for the whole school year.

There are other programs that also directly certify children for free or reduced price school meals including Temporary Assistance for Needing Families (TANF), the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), and Medicaid (in some states*). The USDA is currently allowing states to participate in a pilot to add Medicaid data to their direct certification systems helping more students to automatically qualify for free school meals. 

More directly certified students means schools will have a higher Identified Student Percentage (ISP), which increases the likelihood of qualifying for and boosts the revenue potential of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). CEP allows all students at the participating school to receive free school meals.

Learn more about direct certification best practices and maximizing ISP

*Current states using Medicaid data to directly certify students: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, New York City, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. 

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Outreach Strategies for School Settings
teacher speaking to two little boys

Schools are a great place to reach eligible families and children who are not participating in SNAP.

Schools are generally a trusted space for families to learn new information and connect with resources

There are many ways schools can increase awareness about SNAP that utilize regular communication channels with families such as messaging caregivers through text or adding information about SNAP to your website. See examples in our SNAP Outreach in Schools toolkit

Many different school staff and administrators can be messengers for SNAP information - principals, parent coordinators, social workers, nutrition directors and staff, and administrators working in the front office. A coordinated, cross-school outreach effort can lead to strong results. Oftentimes it takes exposure to information multiple times to know about an available resource and take action. 

In addition to raising awareness about SNAP, ensuring families are connected to support to enroll in the program is critical. The best outreach efforts also involve providing application assistance. This can look like making a referral to a provider in your area, hosting an enrollment event with trained experts providing assistance on-site, or having a staff member that can walk families through the application. 

Schools do not have to go about this work alone. There are many organizations that conduct SNAP outreach and application assistance that are great partners in this work. These organizations are well-versed in SNAP outreach and often have staff who provide expert assistance. Your state SNAP agency can provide you with contact information for organizations that do this work in your area - oftentimes it's your local food bank, community action agency or non-profit service providers.

Resources

Schools as Nutrition Hubs
SNAP
Two children are sitting at school desks eating breakfast and working on school work

SNAP Outreach in Schools Toolkit

Customizable Templates & Materials
Outreach & Promotion Materials
Best for:
Educators
No Kid Hungry Partners
School Nutrition Staff
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Outreach Resources
little girl with laptop

Find tools and resources to kickstart your SNAP outreach work in schools. 

Learn from those already doing this work who have developed messaging and methods to reach their school communities with SNAP information.

No Kid Hungry's SNAP Outreach in Schools Toolkit features examples of messaging and materials from partners conducting SNAP outreach and enrollment through schools. The toolkit also has customizable scripts, outreach materials, and social media posts in English, Spanish, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Tagalog, and Vietnamese to support you in getting the word out about SNAP in your school community. 

Resources

Schools as Nutrition Hubs
SNAP
Two children are sitting at school desks eating breakfast and working on school work

SNAP Outreach in Schools Toolkit

Customizable Templates & Materials
Outreach & Promotion Materials
Best for:
Educators
No Kid Hungry Partners
School Nutrition Staff