Program DescriptionThe National School Lunch and National School Breakfast programs make nutritionally balanced meals available to children as part of their regular school day. These programs are federally assisted meal programs operating in over 100,000 public and non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions.
The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers these programs at the Federal level. At the State level, the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs are usually administered by State education agencies, which operate the program through agreements with school food authorities.
General Program RequirementsChildren qualify to receive free or low-cost meals while they attend school (high school and under) if their families' household incomes meet the current income eligibility guidelines. Children who participate in certain other programs, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and children who are migrant, runaway, or homeless are automatically eligible for free meals. You can find out what the maximum income limits for eligibility are on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) FNS "School Meals" page.
Your Next StepsThe following information will lead you to the next steps to apply for this benefit.
Application ProcessContact your child's school to find out what meals are served, and how to apply for free or reduced-price meals. Your state education agency can also give you information about school meals.
The Food and Nutrition Service provides program and state contact information on the Child Nutrition Programs State Locator page.