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National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs

  • Listed: January 19, 2019 5:22 pm
  • Expires: 998044 days, 8 hours


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Program Description

The National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program provide nutritionally balanced meals to children as part of their regular school day. These programs are federally assisted meal programs that operate in approximately 100,000 public and non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions. To learn if your child’s school participates in one or both of these programs, contact your child’s school or school district.

Program Requirements

Children may receive free or reduced price meals if their household’s income falls at or below the limits of the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines.

In addition, all children in households receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) are eligible for free school meals.

Foster children that are under the legal responsibility of a foster care agency or court are eligible for free school meals, as are children participating in their school’s Head Start program.

Children who meet the definition of homeless, runaway, or migrant are also eligible for free school meals.

Children from households that are eligible for unemployment compensation or The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) may also be eligible for free or reduced price school meals. State Workforce Agency Administratorsshould let households seeking unemployment benefits know about the availability of free and reduced price school meals for children.

Please contact your school or district for more information.

Application Process

Schools send school meal applications home at the beginning of each school year. However, parents and guardians may apply for school meals for their children any time during the school year by asking for and submitting an application directly to their school or district.

Applications are reviewed by local school or district officials before granting free or reduced price benefits. If a household receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)benefits, all of the children who attend school automatically qualify for free school meals. Participation in other Federal assistance programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) also provides automatic eligibility. Please contact your child’s school to determine if you need to fill out an application.

Contact Information

If you are a parent or guardian, contact your child’s school or school district to learn if your child’s school participates in one or both of these programs.

To contact the State Agency that administers the National School Lunch Program and/or School Breakfast Program in your state, visit the State contact information page and click on your state.

For more information visit FNS’s School Meals page.

To contact the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, visit FNS’s Contact Us page.

If you need food help today, you may also call the National Hunger Hotline. Hotline staff can help you find food near where you live:

  • 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479)
  • 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273) (en español)

Additional Information

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number 10.555, 10.553
Current Method of Tribal Eligibility Program not specific to American Indians and Alaska Natives, but they are eligible
Funding Type Mandatory
Matching Funds Required No


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