My Children Can’t Afford Lunch at School…What Can I Do?
If you can’t afford to buy your kids lunch at school there’s some good news: there ARE some government assistance programs that can help pay for your children’s school lunches, should you apply and gain approval.
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally funded meal assistance program. This program operates in public, nonprofit private schools and residential child care facilities. It provides low cost or free nutritionally sound lunches to children every school day.
After school snacks are also provided to children who are eligible to receive free or reduced school meals. Please notify your local school if you wish to participate in the after school reduced meal program.
Part 1 – Who Can Apply
Schools send applications for reduced or free meals home at the beginning of each school year. Applications are available anytime throughout the year by contacting your school directly for an application.
If you are currently receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, your child automatically qualifies for this program. You should contact your child’s school directly to see if you need to complete an application.
If your earnings are at or below the Income Eligibility Guidelines (IEG), you should contact your child’s school to complete an application. These guidelines are used to determine your eligibility for free or reduced school meals. Your income is defined as earnings received before any deductions, including taxes, insurance, charities, etc. Earnings include:
- Any compensation received for services, including wages,tips, salary, commission or fees;
- Net income from non-farm self employment;
- Net income from farm self-employment;
- Social security benefits;
- Dividends or interest on savings, bonds, or income from estates or trust funds;
- Net rental income;
- Public assistance or welfare programs;
- Unemployment compensation;
- Government civilian employee or military retirement, or pensions or veterans’ payment;
- Private pensions or annuities;
- Alimony or child support payments;
- Regular contributions from persons not living in your household;
- Net royalties;
- Other cash income (any resources that would be available to pay for your child’s meal).
You can access the following website to determine your income eligibility
Part 3 – How To Apply
These instructions will help you complete the application for the free or reduced school lunch program for your child. If you follow these instructions in order, they will match the actual application. You must complete the application using an ink pen, not a pencil.
Step 1: Write the names of all infants, children and school students who live in your household. They do NOT have to be related to you to be considered a part of your household. These include foster care, runaways, homeless or migrant youth who are 18 years and younger.
- List each child’s name – Print each child’s first, middle initial and last name. Use one line for each child.
- Mark “yes” or “no” to indicate if your child is a student. If yes, please write the name of the school/school district.
- Do you have any foster children? If so, mark “Foster Child” next to the child’s name.
- Are any of the children runaway, migrant or homeless?
Step 2: Does anyone in your household (including yourself) participate in any federally funded program? If anyone in your household is a client in any of the following programs, your children are eligible for free school meals:
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF)
- The Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservation (FDPIR)
If no one in your household participates in any of the above listed programs, skip to question #3. If your answer is yes, circle and provide your case number for the appropriate program. You must provide one case number if you circled “yes”. Skip to question #4.
Step 3: Report income for all household members. You must report any income that is paid directly to your children. This includes: earnings from work, social security, income from parents outside the household or income from any other source.
You must also report income from all adults who live with you and share income and expenses. List each adult household member’s name and their gross income from all money received. Enter the total number of household members and the last four digits of the primary wage earners’ social security number.
Step 4: An adult household member must sign the application. When you sign the application, you are stating that all the information that you have provided is truthful and complete. The more contact information you provide, the quicker you can be contacted with information regarding your case. At a minimum, you should provide your address. If you have a phone number and/or email address, you can provide this also.
Print and sign your name in the boxes provided. It’s important that you date your application. Please review your application for completeness. An incomplete application may result in a delay in receiving free or reduced meals for your children.
Other Food Assistance Programs
- The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) – This program ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. It is estimated that approximately 200 million meals will be served to eligible children who are 18 years of age and under. You can find additional information at: https://bestpractices.nokidhungry.org/free-summer-meals-kids
- Child & Adult Care Food Program – This program provides nutritious meals to child and adult care institutions, and family or group care homes. Its’ goal is to contribute to the overall wellness of older adults and chroncally disabled person. For more information, go to: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cacfp/child-and-adult-care-food-program
- Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) – This is a federal program that helps to supplement the diet of low-income Americans. This program provides Americans, including the elderly, with emergency food and nutrition assistance at no cost. http://www.fns.usda.gov/tefap/emergency-food-assistance-program-tefap.
A Final Word
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) makes it possible for all children living in the United States to have a nutritious meal every school day.
All school districts that participate in this program are required to also have a wellness policy. This is an opportunity to address childhood obesity, promote healthy eating and physical activity by changing the school environment.
If you want additional information on the NSLP and all child nutrition programs, contact your state agency. You can find the contact information on this website;
Select your state from the drop down box and select “apply”