Application requirement resumes for free and reduced-price meals

Families who need help paying for school meals must apply for it for the first time since 2020.

The federal Keep Kids Fed Act reinstates the application requirement for free and reduced-price school meals, the State Department of Education announced Tuesday. Congress suspended the application requirement for families during the pandemic.

There is no deadline for applying, but the SDE is encouraging families to do so before the start of the 2022-23 school year to confirm their eligibility.

The reinstatement requires some low-income students who fall above the poverty line to pay a reduced price for school meals. Others may qualify for free meals. The full price of meals was covered for all students, with no application required, during the last two school years.

Families that participate in federal assistance programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Temporary Assistance for Families in Idaho automatically qualify. Those on Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations also automatically qualify, but an application may still be required to participate.

Families may also qualify for free or reduced-price meals based on income guidelines alone, and do not need to enroll in an assistance program to access meals.

Most Idaho schools participate in the National School Lunch Program. Parents should contact their district or charter school where the programs are offered to fill out an application. Go here for a list of Idaho districts and links to their websites, where their contact information will be listed.

Only one application is required per household, even for those with children attending more than one school within a district. Eligibility remains for the entire school year. An application must be re-submitted at the beginning of each school year.

“We don’t want families that have received free meals over the past two years to get sidelined by this change in federal policy,” State superintendent Sherri Ybarra said. “Please, if you need help with school meals, contact your district office. We want all Idaho kids to be fed, healthy and ready to learn and succeed.”

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

Devin was formerly a senior reporter and editor for Idaho Education News and now works for INL in communications.

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