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 over 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.
 

General Program Requirements

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 meals.

Foster children that are under the legal responsibility of a foster care agency or court are eligible for free meals.

Children participating in their school’s Head Start program are eligible for free meals.

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

Children may receive free or reduced price meals if your household’s income falls at or below the limits on the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines. If you are eligible for unemployment compensation or The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), you may also be eligible for free or reduced price school meals. State Workforce Agency Administrators should let households seeking unemployment benefits about the availability of free and reduced price school meals. Please contact your school or district for more information.

 

 

Your Next Steps

The following information will lead you to the next steps to apply for this program.

Application Process

Schools send school meal applications home at the beginning of each school year. However, you may apply for school meals any time during the school year by submitting an application directly to your school or district. You may ask for an application any time during the school year.

Applications are reviewed by local school or district officials before granting free or reduced price benefits. If you receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, all of your 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.

Program 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

Current Method of Tribal EligibilityProgram not specific to American Indians and Alaska Natives, but they are eligible
Funding TypeMandatory
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number10.555, 10.553
Matching Funds RequiredNo

Didn't find what you were looking for?


Try using our Benefit Finder questionnaire to view a list of benefit programs you may be eligible to receive.