Applying for Free and Reduced Price School Meals

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Last Updated on August 31, 2023 by Lori Pace

Children having lunch at school

At the start of each year, schools send out school meal applications to every household. So, these applications for free and reduced-price school meals are open throughout the year. 

So don’t be sad if you didn’t qualify the first time. You can always apply again at any time during the year. You can apply online or directly to your school or district. Moreover, you only need to fill out one application for all students in your household. You do not need to fill out an application for each child.

Always ensure that you have all the required information as incomplete applications will not be considered. 

Eligibility Criteria for Free and Reduced Price School Meals

Did you know 51.8% of students in the U.S qualify for free and reduced-price school meals? You and your child/children do not need to be U.S citizens to apply for free meals. Moreover, there are grants with free money for single moms!

The eligibility criteria for free and reduced-price school meals for students depends on their household size and income. Check the Income Eligibility Guideline to see if you earn at or below the guidelines. 

The following students/children meet the criteria for free meals:

  • Foster children under the legal responsibility of a foster care agency or court are eligible for free meals. 
  • Students who are active in their school’s Head Start program are eligible for free meals. 
  • Homeless children, children of migrants or children who have run away will qualify for free meals.  

So, contact your school or district to find out more information about the programs that offer automatic eligibility. 

USDA Prototype Applications

The USDA provides paper-based templates of school meal applications for state, local agencies and households. Their online prototypes are only available for state and local agencies, not households. 

In short, the prototypes comply with the legal requirements and review design best practices recognised by the USDA through testing and research. 

Prototype Household Application

The paper-based prototype household application makes the application process more convenient and accurate for households and school officials.

Visit the USDA Food & Nutrition Service to find school meal applications, instructions, and household guidelines. There are also foreign translated applications with instructions available in 49 non-English languages.

Lori Pace
Lori Pace

Lori Pace is a single mother of three daughters ages 7 and under. As a working mom from home, she balances kids, work and two crazy dogs with humor and love. Follow Lori as she honestly gives tips and advice based on her own experiences as a single mom!