Durbin: USDA Includes Illinois in New Certification Process to Reduce Errors and Fraud in School Lunch Program

Prompted by a Chicago Tribune report in January, Durbin called on Agriculture Secretary to work more closely with Chicago Public Schools

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture for including the State of Illinois – including the Chicago Public Schools – in a new demonstration project that will help reduce fraud in the National School Lunch Program and increase enrollment among eligible low-income children.  Under this announcement, Illinois will be able to enroll students automatically for free schools meals based on participation in Medicaid which can help prevent errors without compromising access for those families who truly need it.


“The National School Lunch program serves over 31 million children every school day,” said Durbin.  “Many parents would not be able to pay for their children to eat lunch without this program, but recent reports of abuse and fraud within the system threaten to damage the integrity of the program.  I commend the USDA for taking action today by partnering with Illinois schools to find a way to increase access to such an important program while hopefully reducing the possibilities for error and fraud.”


In response to a January 2012 Chicago Tribune report unveiling cases of school employees submitting false information in order to enroll more children for free and reduced lunches, Durbin called on the USDA to work more closely with schools and school districts – including Chicago Public Schools – to reduce or eliminate fraud in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). 


Illinois is one of six states nationwide chosen to participate in the new demonstration project which will allow eligible children to be directly certified for free school meals based on income and participation information received from Medicaid agencies through automated data matching processes.  The identified eligible students will be certified automatically for free school meals for the entire school year.  Because students that have been identified as eligible for free school meals through this direct certification process do not have to fill out an application, the project will reduce paperwork and create administrative efficiencies.


The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operating in over 101,000 public and non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions.  It provided nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to more than 31 million children each school day in 2010.  In 1998, Congress expanded the National School Lunch Program to include reimbursement for snacks served to children through 18 years of age in afterschool programs.