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Direct Cert

"Direct Cert" is used to get the list of students in your schools who directly certify for free or reduced lunch services reported by other agencies of VT.

It is important that this process is run regularly, and soon after it's available. We don’t consider a student directly certified until you have accessed the data.

The school meals program application year runs July 1-June 30th. Each year enrollment in this program is reset on July 1st and it does not roll over automatically from year to year. Students and their family must reapply.


Please see the procedure outlined here if you are a Data Manager.

If you are a Food Service Director, please see this section on how to download the file.

Independent Schools

Independent Schools should use the new Independent School Direct Certification Status Form. Independent Schools who need to check their enrollment list against the October Direct Certification list can contact the data helpdesk to ask that they initiate a secure email chain at If you only have a handful of names you wish to check (not an entire enrollment list) you can email the to initiate a secure email chain. Identifying student information should never be sent through regular email.

What is the program 3SquaresVT and how does it relate to Direct Cert

3SquaresVT is the Vermont name for the federal program known as SNAP. AOE gets the data about all of the children currently enrolled in 3SquaresVT/SNAP each month and loads it into edFusion about the 20th of the month. This relates to the the Direct Certification for free or reduced lunch(Direct Cert) process we ask data managers to perform.

If the child is in a household that receives 3SquaresVT/SNAP, you will see a “YES” in the SNAP column in your export from edFusion.

We also get information about children in households receiving TANF/Reach Up benefits. For these children, there is a “YES” in the column labeled “RUFA” in your edFusion export.

Children who have a “YES” in either of these categories, and any other children living in the same household with these children, should all be directly certified for free school meals, so you may also hear this referred to as your “direct certification” list.

Please be aware that the information on 3SquaresVT eligibility should only be used for the school meals program. Once it is used for school meals program purposes, it may be used for several other purposes, but this data is generally pretty restricted.

So you shouldn’t give this information out to anyone other than your school meals determining official, and it shouldn’t be visible in your SIS to anyone other than those involved in school meals benefits. You can (and should) also use this information for P-EBT purposes.

If you want to know more about the direct certification process for school meals, you can watch the video of our direct certification module of our training for free and reduced meal determining officials:

Register for Webinar "Module 2: Direct Certification"

There is a USDA manual on determining eligibility for free and reduced meals that is probably much more information than you are looking for.

However, the disclosure section starting on Page 86 does discuss the allowable uses of free and reduced eligibility data, and that might be helpful for you.

Why does the AOE require two separate October data collections involving Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL) numbers? What are the differences between the 10/1 and 10/31 data collections?

We acknowledge that the two collections appear redundant and the different poverty numbers generated may be confusing. However, each collection responds to different federal and state statutory requirements and has different purposes.

Per USED and state regulations, AOE must determine October 1st Student Census data, including students’ household income status as of this date. These data are collected by the AOE’s Data Management and Analysis Division (DMAD) through the DC06 and are used for accountability and equity purposes (e.g., determinations of disparities between non-low-income and low-income students on student assessment measures), as well as determination of schools’ and students’ eligibility for many state and federal programs including Title I, 21C Learning Center afterschool and summer programming, Community Schools grants, E-rate, Dual Enrollment/Early College stipends, and many more.

Per USDA regulations, AOE Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) must collect a separate FRL rate as of October 31st of each year. These data are collected through the online CNP application and claims management system in something called the “site enrollment report.”  For that report, CNP must determine the status of all the students who have access to school meals; we only ask for the total number of free, reduced, and paid status students.  CNP publishes the FRL rates collected from this report each year on our website  (the Child Nutrition Free and Reduced Eligibility Report).

Why are our 10/1 and 10/31 FRL numbers different?

Both the 10/1 and 10/31 reports are based on the number of individual students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals compared to your enrollment.  However, prior year free and reduced meal eligibility carries over for the first 30 operating days of the school year unless the household submits a new application during that time period.  The 30th operating day generally falls in mid-October.  Therefore, the October 1st (DC06) numbers include all of the children who qualified in the prior year, plus students who qualified in July-September, whereas the October 31st numbers (CN) only include children who became newly eligible in July-September. This means in practice that the October 1 FRL numbers (DC06) are usually a little higher than the October 31st numbers (child nutrition).

Please note that SY’s 2021-2022 child nutrition numbers will deviate from this general pattern. Because of the many waivers from USDA that AOE CNP received to offer free meals to all children due to COVID, the 30-day carryover period never elapsed last school year and may not elapse this school year (guidance from USDA pending).  Furthermore, the availability of pandemic EBT benefits also encouraged additional families to submit FRL applications at non-typical times in the school year, affecting the data collection numbers.

Should preschool students be included in either report?

For the 10/1 DCO6 collection, preschoolers should be included. However, per federal statue, AOE DMAD removes preschoolers from the October 1 FRL and enrollment numbers for purposes of determining Title I eligibility and allocations through the Title I Targeting and Ranking process. This edited data is loaded into the grants management system.

For the 10/31 CNP collection, if a school’s preschool students have access to breakfast or lunch, then they should be included in the 10/31 report - and the school’s meals program should be collecting free and reduced meal applications from those students.  If they don’t have access to the meals program, you would exclude those students from your report. 

Do we have to collect Household Income Forms (HIF) if we are a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) or Provision 2 school? If so, why?

As a participant in CEP or Provision 2, per USDA regulations, you may not use the FRL application to determine free and reduced-price meal eligibility status. However, as stated in #1 above, many benefits and programs for both your students and schools, as well as equity determinations, depend upon these numbers. Therefore, we ask CEP and Provision 2 schools to use the Household Income Form to provide household size and income information that would otherwise have been collected using the FRL applications and that is required to accurately complete the October 1st VT Census Data Collection (DC06).

Who in our schools/SU-SD should be responsible for collecting HIF forms?

As the HIF is not a form to determine eligibility for any school meals program, per USDA regulations school nutrition staff member paid for with Child Nutrition funds may not collect these forms.  It is up to the LEA to determine who is responsible for the collection of the HIF within their schools.

Do we need to audit a percentage of HIF forms and if so, who is responsible for this?

Unlike the FRL forms, there currently is no audit requirement for the Household Income Forms. However, there may be such a requirement in the future.