Free and Reduced-Price Meals

National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

It is important to give our children healthy and nutritious meals to improve their chances of success and improve their learning opportunities. Research indicates eating habits affect learning. The USDA’s school meals programs help ensure all students have access to nutritious meals.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply?

You should have received an application from your child’s school. If not, please contact the school directly.

Do I need to fill out an application for each of my children?

No. You can use one Free and Reduced Price School Meals Application for all students in your household. Please ensure the entire application is complete. Return the completed application to one of your children’s school.

Who can get free meals?

All children in households receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Families First can get free meals regardless of your income. Also, your children can receive free- or reduced-price meals if your household’s gross income is within the free limits on the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines.

Can foster children get free meals?

Yes, foster children that are under the legal responsibility of a foster care agency or court are eligible for free meals. Any foster child in the household is eligible for free meals regardless of income.

Can homeless, runaway, Head Start, and migrant children get free meals?

Yes, children who meet the definition of homeless, runaway, or migrant qualify for free meals. Check with your school, the homeless liaison, or migrant coordinator for more information and to see if your children qualify.

Who can get reduced-price meals?

Your children can get low cost meals if your household income is within the reduced price limits on the Federal Eligibility Income Chart.

Should I fill out an application if I get a letter this school year saying my children are approved for free or reduced-price meals?

Please carefully read the letter you received and follow the instructions. Call your child’s school if you have questions.

My child’s application was approved last year. Do I need to fill out another one?

Yes.  Your child’s application is only good for that school year and for the first few days of this school year.  You must send in a new application unless the school told you that your child is eligible for the new school year.

I get WIC. Can my children get free meals?

Children in households participating in WIC may be eligible for free or reduced price meals, but you will need to fill out an application.

Will the information I give be checked?

Yes, and you may be asked to send written proof.

If I do not qualify now, may I apply later?

Yes, you may apply at any time during the school year.  For example, children with a parent or guardian who becomes unemployed may become eligible for free- and reduced-price meals if the household income drops below the income limit.

What if I disagree with the school’s decision about my application?

You should talk to school officials. You also may ask for a hearing to have the decision reviewed.

May I apply if someone in my household is not a U. S. citizen?

Yes. You or your child do not have to be U.S. citizens to qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

Who should I include as members of my household?

You must include all people living in your household, related or not (such as grandparents, other relatives, or friends) who share income and expenses.  You must include yourself and all children who are living with you. If you live with other people who are economically independent, do not include them.

What if my income is not always the same?

List the amount that you normally receive.  If you normally get overtime, include it.  If you do not normally get it, do not include it.  If you have lost a job or had your hours or wages reduced, use your current income.

We are in the military. Do we include our housing allowance as income?

If you get an off-base housing allowance, it must be included as income. However, if your housing is part of the Military Housing Privatization Initiative, do not include your housing allowance as income.

My spouse is deployed to a combat zone. Is their combat pay counted as income?

No, if your spouse is receiving combat pay because they are deployed in addition to their basic pay and this combat pay was not received before the deployment, it is not counted as income.

My family needs more help. Are there other programs we might apply for?

For more information on the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, contact Phyllis Hodges, at Phyllis.Hodges@tn.gov or at (615) 532-4742. For more information on applying for SNAP, or other assistance benefits, visit http://www.tn.gov/humanservices/topic/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap.

Income Eligibility Guidelines

Federal Eligibility Income Chart For School Year 2016-2017
Household size Annual Monthly Twice per month
AQUOS
Every two weeks Weekly
1 21,978 1,832 916 846 423
2 29,637 2,470 1,235 1,140 570
3 37,296 3,108 1,554 1,435 718
4 44,955 3,747 1,874 1,730 865
5 52,614 4,385 2,193 2,024 1,012
6 60,273 5,023 2,512 2,319 1,160
7 67,951 5,663 2,832 2,614 1,307
8 75,647 6,304 3,152 2,910 1,455
Each additional person: 7,696 642 321 296 148