to collecting information to analyze changes in participation, the panel expects to obtain information to analyze costs.
Once we have some sense of the possible changes in reimbursements due to adoption of Provision 4, it remains to estimate the effects on costs and benefits. Our assessment will be primarily in terms of costs and revenues, although we recognize that a chief benefit, which is crucially important but hard to quantify, is that of expanding the school meals programs to reach more students and thereby improve their nutrition and readiness for learning. The financial impact for school districts will depend on the balance between the increased costs of providing more meals, on one hand, and the increase in reimbursements from higher participation, together with the savings from reduced administrative costs of certification, verification, and meal counting by category, on the other hand.
We will draw on previous work on program costs, including U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (2004) on the School Breakfast Pilot Project; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (1994b, 2008a) on the School Lunch and Breakfast Cost Studies, I and II; U.S. Government Accountability Office (2002) on the costs of three administrative processes; and U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (2007b), which is the Access, Participation, Eligibility, and Certification (APEC) report. The GAO study, for example, estimated costs for (1) providing, accepting, and reviewing applications for free and reduced-price meals; (2) verifying eligibility for free and reduced-price meals; and (3) counting reimbursable meals and claiming federal reimbursement. Data were collected in five states for two districts in each state and two schools in each district.
As discussed earlier in this chapter and in Chapter 4, we will also be collecting cost and revenue information via structured interviews and data requests from the case study school districts, volunteers identified via the SNA survey, and possibly other states or school districts. With all of the available information, we will estimate the savings from eliminating certification, verification, and meal counting by category. For the case study districts, we will use estimates of eligibility and participation as the basis for hypothetical claiming percentages for reimbursement under Provision 4. The implied hypothetical reimbursements will be assessed relative to reimbursements under the traditional approach (which the case study school districts are using now). Then, differences between costs and reimbursements will be compared for the traditional approach and Provision 4 to identify situations that render Provision 4 more or less attractive to school districts.