Providing Income Information Ensures Student Access to School Meals
OLYMPIA — September 7, 2023 — Families are encouraged to provide income information to their school districts to ensure that their students have access to much-needed school meals.
This information helps determine students’ eligibility for meals, and it is also used to identify other student benefits such as reduced fees and additional funding for schools. Information provided may also be used to qualify eligible children for Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (Summer EBT) programs.
Families will be asked to fill out one of two documents: a free and reduced-price meals application, or a family income survey. Both forms are simple to fill out and confidential. There are no citizenship requirements for participation in the federal child nutrition programs that Washington’s schools operate, and immigration status is not requested or disclosed.
All households with students in grades K–12 receive application or income survey packets from their child’s school at the beginning of the school year. These packets provide instructions and directions on where to send the materials. In addition, many schools make meal applications or family income surveys available electronically.
After families submit their Free and Reduced-Price Meal Applications, determinations are made within 10 operating days of receipt. Households denied eligibility can appeal the decision by contacting their school.
Family Income Surveys are offered to families whose schools participate in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) or Provision 2. CEP and Provision 2 schools provide meals at no cost for all students in a school, but income surveys provide crucial eligibility information for other student benefits.
Meal applications and income surveys can be submitted at any time during the school year. Households that experience a change in income due to job loss or other circumstances are encouraged to apply.
Family income information supports the continued operation of meal programs in Washington state. In Washington, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) administers federal U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Child Nutrition Programs, including the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, and Special Milk Program.
USDA Child Nutrition Program Income Guidelines
Income eligibility guidelines are used to determine eligibility to receive free or reduced-price meals or free milk.
The following income guidelines for eligibility for free meals and reduced-price meals apply from July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2024.
NOTE: The state of Washington pays the copay for public school students who are eligible for reduced-price meals in grades pre-K–12.
There are several additional programs and circumstances that provide automatic eligibility for free and reduced-price meals.
To facilitate automatic eligibility and make the process more efficient for families, the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) provides a list of children who receive the following services. Households are notified of the eligibility and must contact the school if they choose to decline the benefits.
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program/Basic Food (SNAP)
- Specific Medicaid programs
- Children placed in foster care
In foster households, all other students in the household may be eligible based on household size and income. In these situations, households may submit a meal application.
Students in the following programs or circumstances are also eligible for free and reduced-price meals. Families should contact their school for more information.
- Students experiencing homelessness
- Students enrolled in Migrant Education Programs
- Households taking part in the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
- Students in Head Start and Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP)
Eligibility lasts from the date of approval through the first 30 operating days of the next school year or until a family contacts the school or district.
Households needing assistance with applications materials in languages other than English should contact their school for assistance.
If you have questions about eligibility, please contact your child’s school.
For More Information
In accordance with federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity.
Program information may be made available in languages other than English. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication to obtain program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language), should contact the responsible state or local agency that administers the program or USDA’s TARGET Center at 202-720-2600 (voice and TTY) or contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.
To file a program discrimination complaint, a Complainant should complete Form AD-3027, USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form(link is external), from any USDA office, by calling 866-632-9992 or by writing a letter addressed to USDA. The letter must contain the complainant’s name, address, telephone number, and a written description of the alleged discriminatory action in sufficient detail to inform the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (ASCR) about the nature and date of an alleged civil rights violation. The completed AD-3027 form or letter must be submitted to USDA by:
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-9410; or
- Fax: 833-256-1665 or 202-690-7442; or
- Email: USDA Program Intake
This institution is an equal opportunity provider.