Access, Participation, Eligibility and Certification (APEC) Study Series

Welcome to the fourth iteration of the Access, Participation, Eligibility and Certification Study (APEC IV).

The goal of APEC IV is to provide up-to-date and nationally representative data on the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the national School Breakfast Program (SBP).  The success of APEC IV depends upon the full participation of the states, school food authorities (SFAs), schools and households of our nation’s students.

APEC IV has two objectives:

  • To generate a national estimate of the annual amount of improper payments (overpayments and underpayments) for school year (SY) 2023-2024.
  • To examine the relationship of student (household), school, and SFA characteristics to rates of improper payments.

Participants in APEC IV are randomly selected and include 44 state child nutrition (CN) agencies, over 330 school food authorities, 900 schools (both Community Eligibility Program (CEP) and non-CEP schools), and 13,000 households with a student within the selected schools.

Data will be collected during the 2023-2024 school year. Parents/guardians of sampled students will complete a household survey about their experience with the NSLP and SBP. A final report on the research findings will be produced in 2026.

APEC IV is a research study, not an audit of any type. All information collected will be kept private to the extent required by law and will not affect meal reimbursements or meal program benefits for any participating state agency, SFA, school, or household.

APEC IV complies with the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act of 2010 and is authorized under the Payment Integrity Information Act (PIIA) of 2019 (this replaced IPERA/IPERIA of 2012), both of which ensure the financial and programmatic integrity of programs such as the NSLP and the SBP.



  • SFAs selected to participate


  • Schools selected to participate
  • SFAs provide data on households that applied for school meals in SY 2022-2023
  • Selected households complete one-time telephone survey


  • Study team conducts site visits to SFAs and schools
  • SFAs complete online survey

2025 and beyond

  • Study team analyzes data
  • Study team writes reports to document the findings

Message from the Associate Administrator for Child Nutrition at the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service