Nutrition and Wellness Programs

Electronic Direct Certification Process

Direct Certification is a simplified method of determining student’s eligibility for free meals through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs or free milk under the Special Milk Program without completing a Household Eligibility Application. In addition, students directly certified to receive free meals or milk are not subject to verification.

Effective with school year 2009–2010, a NEW Electronic Direct Certification System was implemented statewide.  The eligibility certificates that were mailed to each student receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) will NO LONGER be mailed.

<empty> Medicaid Records are Not Available

Effective July 2015, the Electronic Direct Certification System will NOT include matches with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) file that includes income eligible Medicaid children. Thus, a reduced number of direct certification matches for 2015-16 Annual and Monthly files is likely for most sponsors when compared to last year’s 2014-15 files. ISBE Nutrition and Wellness Programs Division staff will continue to work with USDA and HFS staff to utilize income eligible Medicaid matches in the future. If we are able to provide such matches in the future, School Food Authorities will be notified immediately.

At this time, households that were directly certified during the 2014-15 school year via income-eligible Medicaid benefits will continue to be eligible for free meal benefits based on the USDA required carryover provision in which the eligibility status from the previous school year is carried over for up to 30 operating days into the current school year or until a new eligibility determination is made, either approved or denied. The new eligibility determination supersedes the carryover eligibility. During this time, we encourage school food authorities to work with this population to ensure that they understand that the household eligibility application must be completed and returned to the school for processing. A Medicaid case identification number is not approvable on the HEA, thus most households will need to complete the HEA with household size and income information. Detailed guidance can be found in the Administrative Handbook, Electronic Direct Certification System and Certification of Eligibility – Processing Household Eligibility Applications sections available online at

<empty> Electronic Direct Certification Guidance

<empty> Sample Documents

Direct Certification with Medicaid Demonstration Project

The Illinois State Board of Education was selected to participate in a USDA Demonstration Project related to direct certification with Income Eligible Medicaid Data in selected Local Education Agencies (LEA). USDA randomly selected LEAs to participate in this demonstration project and to serve as control LEAs for evaluation purposes. This project was authorized by Congress in Section 103 of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-296). This demonstration project began in SY2012-2013 and continues now.   

The objective of this demonstration project is to determine the potential of direct certification with Income Eligible Medicaid to reach children who are eligible for free school meals who are not certified as well as those that are certified via a household eligibility application. Ultimately, the project with help to provide an estimate of the effect of direct certification with Income Eligible Medicaid on the Federal costs of the School-Based Child Nutrition Programs and on participation in such programs. The Act in Section 305 also requires that States and selected school districts participate in this study.

In School Year 2013-2014, with the approval of the USDA, additional LEAs in Illinois will have access to Income Eligible Medicaid direct certification matches without inclusion in the demonstration project evaluation component. A complete list of Illinois LEAs and the level of participation is detailed on the list below