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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 school meals under the federal Child Nutrition Programs, most households must submit an application with information about their household size and income. This information is then compared to the Income Eligibility Guidelines to determine a child's eligibility for free and reduced price meals. Certain students, however, are categorically eligible for free meals, including students identified as homeless or in temporary housing.

Are students experiencing homelessness eligible for free meals?

Yes. All homeless students are entitled to free meals if the school district participates in the federal free meals program. 42 U.S.C. § 1758(b)(12)(A)(iv).

Do students in temporary housing need to fill out an application to get free meals?

No. Students experiencing homelessness can automatically get free meals without any paperwork. 42 U.S.C. § 1758(b)(5)(B); 42 U.S.C. § 11432(e)(3)(C)(i)(III)(cc). The school district liaison only has to submit a letter to the food service director to identify homeless students' who are eligible for free meals. The letter 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 about homeless children in school nutrition programs, please see: Eligibility Effective Date for Directly Certified Students, U.S. Department of Education, June 2014.[PDF]

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

Students in temporary housing do not need to fill out an application for free meals. Instead, the liaison can simply write 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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Training and Workshop Materials