Must-Read: Richard Mayhew: School Lunches and Medicaid: a BFD: “[‘Interested State agencies that administer the National School Lunch Program (NSLP)…

…can now use Medicaid data to certify students for free and reduced priced lunches.’] Kids who have enough to eat and are not worried about having enough to eat have two significant advantages over kids who don’t have enough to eat and have to worry about that. The first is simple, they have more energy to spend on high intensity activities of play and learning (speaking as a dad of a first grader, those two things should be very close to the same a good chunk of the time). Secondly and slightly more subtly, kids who are not worried about their next meal are able to devote high complexity cognitive processes to other things. Kids (and adults) have a finite amount of brain horsepower available at any given time. Not worrying about food frees up capacity for other things. Kids who are worried about food are devoting a limited brain budget to that task and not to other things.

The free and reduced price school lunch program in most districts… has a significant amount of paperwork and potential stigma…. People who… have signed up for Medicaid or CHIP… have routine income verification processes…. Allowing states to use pre-exisiting data to pre-qualify kids for free or reduced price school lunches will help a few more kids get a quality daily meal or two in their stomachs which should their well being in addition to school performance. It is also an example of the government working to actively improve peoples’ lives while streamlining the interaction. If we could only make it mandatory that states use Medicaid or SNAP eligiblity data to drive the full array of income qualified social services instead of silo-ing different categories of assistance, so duplication and administrative burden increases wasted costs without providing qualified individuals the services and assistance that they need.