In Fall of 2016, Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) Food & Nutrition Services (FNS) Department implemented new strategies for verifying information submitted on Free & Reduced Applications in the form of a “rolling verification process.”
In 2014, OCPS FNS had 3% of applicants selected on October 1st to verify information submitted for students to qualify for reduced priced or meals at no charge. Efforts to collect responses included mailing a state-generated, automated letter to the household of selected applicants and posting a message on the OCPS FNS department website. These strategies resulted in a 38% response rate to the request for documents to verify information submitted on Free & Reduced Applications.
October 1 2015, 3% of applicants were selected again to verify information submitted , and OCPS FNS implemented additional measures to collect responses. These strategies included changing the verbiage on letters and translating into additional languages to increase comprehension, sending additional follow-up letters and emails, making follow-up calls to households that had not responded, and utilizing the district’s “Connect Orange” messaging system (a reserve call program) to connect with parents. By adding these additional strategies, OCPS FNS was able to collect responses from 65%.
The high volume in responses collected in 2015 decreased the number of responses needed to be collected in 2016 to 1% of applications submitted per state regulation. OCPS FNS spotted another opportunity to collect responses in 2016 OCPS FNS by configuring the MCS Database software to randomly select applications submitted to contact for verification. Each week, beginning August 1st, OCPS FNS generated a report using MCS to identify 1% of all applications submitted and processed throughout the week to identify households to contact to verify information. Starting the process of contacting applicants earlier gave families more time to send in verification documents than beginning the process in October to meet the November 15th deadline.
OCPS Food & Nutrition Services began the process of verifying information by sending a checklist packet home with the student as well as mailing one directly to the home. The packet included steps to take to complete verification process as well as contact information to answer any questions. OCPS FNS began sending follow up letters, phone calls, and text notifications to each applicant as a reminder and to provide support for completing the process. Once process was complete and information was verified, OCPS FNS sent an email and letter to confirm verification was complete and to inform family of each students’ meal status.