What are free and reduced price school meals? The United States Department of Agriculture helps offset the cost of school meal programs for households and schools in order to ensure the healthiest, highest quality offerings are available to all children in the school. Families can apply for free or reduced benefits based on their household income or enrollment in other programs, like SNAP or TANF. In Indiana, households eligible for free or reduced price meals are also eligible for curricular fee assistance in most schools.
How do I apply for free or reduced price school meals and other benefits? Applications may be available during school registration, back-to-school night, or at some other time at the beginning of the school year. Schools must make applications available all year long in case a household transfers into the district or a household's situation changes. Schools will provide a paper copy of the application to families when requested. Online applications may be available as well; families will need to contact their school or food service department for information on how to apply.
Why should I apply for free or reduced price benefits? Applying helps families and schools. In addition to receiving no or low-cost meals (in a typical school year), families may be eligible for discounted school fees, bus passes, utilities, etc. By applying for school meals, families are also helping their school receive additional funding and qualify for grants and additional nutrition programs.
Is the information provided in the application secure and confidential? Yes, the information provided during the application process is confidential and protected. All sponsors collecting and processing meal applications must follow strict guidelines for the release of student or meal eligibility information (including private student information and/or eligibility status). School meals are not part of the public charge rule.
What does public charge mean? Public charge is used by immigration to decide whether a person can enter the U.S. or get a green card/visa. Within this decision-making process, the totality of a person’s circumstances are reviewed including their participation in assistance programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, public housing, cash assistance, etc.
If I apply for free or reduced price school meals, is this considered a public charge? No. Applying for free or reduced price school meals is not considered an assistance program on the grounds of public charge and will not affect green card or visa status. Additionally, your school does not report meal application information to migrant, immigration, or refugee offices.
Does the free and reduced price school meal application ask for immigration, migrant, citizenship, or refugee status? No. Immigration, migrant, citizenship or refugee status is not asked for during the application process, and families should continue to apply for free or reduced price school meals. The application does require the last four numbers of a Social Security number or an indication that there is no Social Security number. Social Security number information is not reported to any organization outside of your school district.
What impact does undocumented or documented immigration or refugee status have on my child receiving free or reduced price school meals? None. Public school districts that participate in the National School Lunch Program and/or the School Breakfast Program are required to process all submitted applications for free or reduced price school meals, regardless of immigration or refugee status and without discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin. Eligibility is based on criteria outlined in the free and reduced price school meal application instructions.
Why should I apply for benefits if my child is automatically receiving free meals? It is important to submit an application if you think you are eligible for free or reduced meals because of the help it provides both the school and the student. Because the application stretches far beyond just the meal program, it is important that families to continue to complete the applications in order to qualify them for any other programs or assistance.
Where can I learn more? Visit your school's website or visit the Indiana Department of Education's website below.
It's more than a meal application for students and schools.
Students that qualify for free or reduced price meals may also qualify for...
- Discounted college application fees
- Summer & after school meals
- Fee waivers for AP exams
- Fee waivers for SAT/ACT/PSAT exams
- Discounted bus passes, internet and phone service for parents and students
Schools also benefit with...
- Increased school funding
- Discounted internet costs
- Equipment grants to improve meal quality
- Ability to qualify for other grants to improve the school overall
- Possibility of participating in other community programs