NYS-TEACHS › Info by Topic: Free Meals

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at Advocates for Children

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All students need good nutrition in order to be ready to learn. Students in temporary housing are categorically eligible to receive free meals. Click the links below to learn more about free meals.

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Find answers to commonly asked questions about free meals for students in temporary housing situations.


The Nutrition Consortium of New York State

The Nutrition Consortium of New York State has useful links and information about emergency food programs administered across the state.

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC)

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) is a national organization that provides information about free school meals and related nutrition support programs for low income families and children.


Free and Reduced Price School Meals Prototype Application

The liaison can simply submit a letter to the Food Services director as discussed in the FAQs above, or the school district liaison can fill out the Free and Reduced Price School Meals Application on behalf of the family. A sample application form and materials from the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service can be found here.

Laws and Guidance

Eligibility Effective Date for Directly Certified Students [PDF]

This June 2014 memo (USDA Memo SP 51-2014)clarifies that LEAs may consider the effective date of eligibility for free school meal or milk benefits for students in temporary housing to be the date on which documentation of eligibility is received. It also clarifies that LEAs may refund any money paid by the student or forgive any debt for meals or milk from the free meal eligibility effective date through the date the direct certification is actually implemented at the school.

Effective Date of Free or Reduced Price Meal Eligibility Determinations [PDF]

The Food and Nutrition Service issued this policy memo (USDA Memo SP 11-2014) on December 3, 2013. It establishes a new policy that allows LEAs (school districts, BOCES, and charter schools) to establish the date of submission of a school meal application as the effective date of eligibility, rather than the date a school official approves the application. This applies to household income applications, as well as when schools are waiting for documentation of other source categorical eligibility (e.g., for homeless or migrant children) indicated on a household application. This policy will improve access to school meals for low-income children by allowing them to access free or reduced-price school meals during the eligibility determination period. It also could assist LEAs that are experiencing challenges with unpaid debt.

July 2004 - USDA Guidance for Homeless Children in School Nutrition Programs[PDF]


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