Secure Info-Sharing Policy Seeks to Boost Student Nutrition

The government and education sectors can now share National School Lunch Program (NSLP) data, with parental consent, that would help determine a student and their family's eligibility for CalFresh.

by Shea Johnson, Daily Press, Victorville, Calif. / May 30, 2017
Shutterstock

(TNS) -- Through an info-sharing partnership, San Bernardino County, Calif., and local education agencies could potentially increase the number of CalFresh program recipients among the current pool of students receiving low-cost or free school lunches.

The government and education sectors can now share National School Lunch Program (NSLP) data, with parental consent, that would help determine a student and their family's eligibility for CalFresh, the federally mandated and county-supervised program colloquially known as food stamps.

On Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors approved a memorandum of understanding template to "establish mechanisms for Local Education Agencies and the Transitional Assistance Department to exchange information provided on" an NSLP application, which is the federally assisted meal program in public schools that provides nutritional and low-cost or free lunches to students.

The framework for sharing such information was laid out by Assembly Bill 402, passed in 2012, which allowed the two sectors to voluntarily partner in an effort to potentially qualify interested households for CalFresh benefits.

"Many students are eligible for the CalFresh program, but are not currently receiving benefits," according to a county staff report, which noted that CalFresh can provide students qualified for free or reduced-price lunches access to healthy, nutritious foods "during those times that the school nutrition program does not supply meals."

It may also qualify more students for direct certification, "a process whereby children who are enrolled in certain public benefits programs such as CalWORKs and CalFresh are automatically enrolled in the free and reduced-price meal program."

Under Tuesday's approved policy, after receiving consent forms from a parent or guardian, a local education agency will send electronic lists of "relevant information" to the county via secure transmission to protect sensitive student data.

"The goal is to ensure the schools community for San Bernardino County is receiving healthy nutritious food for students and their families," said Gilbert Ramos, director of the transitional assistance department, which administers CalFresh here, "which will help students be best equipped to be in the learning environment."

Fifth District Supervisor Josie Gonzales, who publicly championed the info-sharing partnership and said the county hadn't until now sent AB 402 into motion for "a multiple of reasons," pointed to the fact that there's an estimated 33,000 homeless children in the county.

The adopted policy, she said, signaled the importance of networking "and looking for those very important avenues of legally being able to share confidential information that ultimately brings about a more concentrated, a more effective delivery of services."

At the same, she said, it increases the number of children who may be positively impacted.

"I'm very proud of this. I think that this is a pilot, if you will, and I'm hoping that as time goes by, it proves to be a model for other (jurisdictions)," she said, before referencing students. "They will never know that we did this, but they will one day benefit because we did."

©2017 Daily Press, Victorville, Calif. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.