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For Immediate Release: Aug. 1, 2007
Contact: Mary Stadick Smith - (605) 773-7228

Guidelines for free, reduced lunch announced

Eligible families may apply for free or reduced price meals or free milk for their children in schools or child care centers, according to guidelines effective July 1, 2007-June 30, 2008. Offered through the Department of Education’s Child and Adult Nutrition Services, this program allows children whose families are unable to pay the full price of meals or milk served under the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Special Milk Programs, or Child and Adult Care Food Program to receive these items free or at a reduced cost.

Schools and centers participating in the food programs are listed at Click on “Agencies Participating in Child Nutrition Programs.”

In most cases, applications will be provided to households by the local agency. Each agency that participates in the Lunch, Breakfast, Special Milk Program, or Child and Adult Care Food Program has a copy of the policy available for review.

Eligibility guidelines

The chart below indicates income scales used to determine an applicant’s eligibility for free or reduced price meals. Children from families whose income is at, or below, the levels shown are eligible for free or reduced price meals. They also may be eligible for free milk, if the agency participates in a federally funded Special Milk Program. Some agencies do not charge for meals but must obtain the applications in order to document eligibility to claim meals and receive federal reimbursement.

How to apply

Households that are currently on Food Stamps or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families will receive letters indicating that their children are eligible for free meals. These families should not complete an application for free meals for the listed children. Rather, they should bring the letter, or a copy of it, to the school or center.

Families receiving commodities through the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations can request an Interagency Action Notice that can be brought to the school or center in place of an application.

Most foster children are eligible for free or reduced price meals or free milk, regardless of the income of the household in which they reside. Households with a foster child should contact the local agency for information on how to apply for these benefits.

If a household that receives Food Stamps, TANF, or commodities does not receive the letter from Social Services or the Interagency Notice of Action, has children in the household not listed in the letter, or chooses not to bring it to school or center, the household should complete an application. An application from these households must include the names of children for whom benefits are being requested, the case number from their program, and the signature of an adult household member. Information on any application may be verified at any time during the year by agency or other program officials.

To apply for free or reduced price meals, other households should fill out the application and return it to the school or center. An application must include the names of children for whom benefits are requested, and all family members and their monthly income. It must be signed by an adult household member, and it must include that person’s social security number.

Incomplete applications cannot be approved. Additional copies are available in the school or center office. The information provided on the application is confidential and will be used for the purpose of determining eligibility status for meals and Title I programs in schools.

Change in status

Applications may be submitted at any time during the year. If a household member becomes unemployed or if the household size changes, the family should contact the school or center. If a parent or guardian becomes unemployed, children from that household may be eligible for free or reduced price meals or free milk during the time of unemployment, if the household’s income falls within the eligibility guidelines.


If a parent or guardian is dissatisfied with the ruling on the application for eligibility, the individual may contact the determining official on an informal basis. If the parent or guardian wishes to make a formal appeal, an oral or written request may be made to the agency’s hearing official for a hearing to appeal the decision.

Nondiscrimination Statement

Children who get free or reduced price meals are treated the same as children who pay for meals. No child will be discriminated against in accordance with federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy. USDA is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800)795-3272 or call 202-720-6382 (TTY). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. If a child needs a special diet as prescribed by a doctor, the family should contact the local school’s food service manager.

Information Usage

Some agencies may send a special notice about the Children’s Health Insurance Program to households with the application. It provides a way for agency personnel to know if families will allow them to use students’ eligibility status for other program benefits. Other programs may ask permission to use the data too. The agencies are allowed by law to share eligibility information with other nutrition or education programs. The decision as to whether or not a household is eligible for meal benefits is not affected by this form.