Lunch Time

Free Meals

All students need good nutrition in order to learn. Students in temporary housing are always eligible to receive free meals. This is called "Categorical Eligibility."

Topic Resources

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Laws & Guidance

Effective Date of Free or Reduced Price Meal Eligibility Determinations

The Food and Nutrition Service issued this memo (USDA Memo SP 11-2014) on December 3, 2013, to explain how school districts can pinpoint the date on which a student is eligible for free school meals. Local Educational Agencies (including school districts, BOCES, and charter schools) are allowed to use the date when a family turns in their school meal application as the effective date of eligibility, rather than the date a school official approves the application. This also gives school districts flexibility when schools are waiting for documentation of categorical eligibility (e.g., for homeless or migrant children) indicated on household applications. This policy makes it easier for low-income children to get free meals by allowing access to free or reduced-price meals during the eligibility determination period. It also could assist Local Educational Agencies that are experiencing challenges with unpaid debt.

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Laws & Guidance

Eligibility Effective Date for Directly Certified Students

This June 2014 memo (USDA Memo SP 51-2014) explains that the date of eligibility for free school meal or milk benefits for students in temporary housing can be the date on which documentation of eligibility is received. It also clarifies that LEAs may refund any money paid by the student or forgive any debt for meals or milk, starting from the free meal eligibility effective date through the date the direct certification is actually implemented at the school.

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Website

Food Research & Action Center (FRAC)

Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) is a national organization with information about free school meals, SNAP, and other nutrition support programs for low-income families and children.

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Forms & Templates

Free and Reduced Price School Meals Prototype Application

To help students in temporary housing get free school meals, the McKinney-Vento liaison can submit a letter to the Food Services director as discussed in the Free Meals FAQ (see link at the top of this page), or the school district liaison can fill out the Free and Reduced Price School Meals Application on behalf of the family. A sample application form and materials from the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service can be found on the USDA website, linked below.

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Laws & Guidance

Guidance on Categorical Eligibility for School Nutrition Programs

This guidance memo from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) makes it clear that many students have “categorical eligibility” for free meals, including homeless, migrant, and runaway children and youth. The memo also provides instructions for documenting the eligibility of homeless children and youth who are served under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

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Hunger Solutions New York

Hunger Solutions New York, formerly the Nutrition Consortium of New York State, has useful links and information about emergency food programs in all areas of New York State.

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Website

New York State Summer Food Service Program

This website provides information on the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). In New York, the Summer Food Service Program is administered in New York by the State Education Department (NYSED). The SFSP provides funding for free meals to students during the summer months when school is out. Children 18 years of age and younger are eligible to participate in SFSP. Persons over 18 years old who are physically or mentally disabled and participating in a public or nonprofit private school program established for children with these disabilities may also participate.

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Website

New York State Summer Food Service Program -Find Summer Meals

This website has information on the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program. In New York, the Summer Food Service Program is administered in New York by the State Education Department (NYSED). It funds free meals for students during the summer months when school is out.

Children 18 years of age and younger are eligible to participate in the Summer Food Service Program. Persons over 18 years old who are physically or mentally disabled and who also participate in a public or nonprofit private school program for children with these disabilities can also participate.