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at Advocates for Children

151 West 30th Street
5th Floor
New York, NY 10001

TEL 800.388.2014
FAX 212.807.6872

Free Meals

To apply for free meal benefits under the federal Child Nutrition Programs, most households must submit a completed application indicating the household size and income, which are then compared to the Income Eligibility Guidelines issued annually to determine a child's eligibility for free and reduced price meals. Certain students, however, are categorically eligible for free meals.

Are students experiencing homelessness eligible for free meals?

Yes. All homeless students are entitled to free meals if they are offered by the school district. (The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, Section 107).

Must students who are homeless fill out an application to get free meals?

No. The school district liaison only has to submit a letter to the USDA to substantiate homeless students' eligibility for free/reduced priced meals, which should include: a list of the names of the students that are designated as homeless in the district, the effective date of the students' eligibility determination (the date they were designated homeless), along with the liaison's signature. For updated guidance for homeless children in school nutrition programs: July 2004 USDA Memo[PDF] -- April 2002 and August 1992 USDA Memo[PDF].

Where can I find the Free and Reduced Price School Meals Application?

The liaison can simply submit a letter to the Food Services director or the school district liaison can fill out the Free and Reduced Price School Meals Application on behalf of the family. The application is available here: Free and Reduced Price School Meals Application.

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