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How to Apply for Free and Reduced-Price School Meals

How to Apply for Free and Reduced-Price School Meals

Did you know that fifty-one percent of American families qualify for free and reduced-price school meals?  It’s true

Applying for free and reduced-price school meals is a simple and effective way to provide your child with healthy meals every day.  Once you confirm that you qualify, you can request an application and then return the completed form to your child’s school.

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Applying for free and reduced-price school meals doesn’t just mean affordable food; it can provide your child all kinds of hidden benefits you may have never considered!  Read on to find out how you can apply today and take advantage of a boost any family could use. 

How to Apply

Applying for free and reduced-price school meals is so easy, many schools allow parents to complete the requirements during registration!  Regardless of whether or not you’re familiar with this sort of form, you’ll easily be able to complete the entire process within a single day.

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  1. Check to See if You Qualify

Before starting this process, check to see if your family qualifies for reduced or free school meals.

To qualify for reduced-price school meals, your family would fall within 185% of the federal poverty guidelines.  If you fall within 130% of that guideline, your children can enjoy their meals completely free!  

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The way that this program is structured, American families don’t necessarily have to be living in poverty to enjoy the benefits of regular nutritious meals.  

This scale uses size to determine how much income a family can have while still qualifying for these benefits.  Under the 2021-2022 guidelines, a family of four can earn over 49,000 dollars and still enjoy this program’s perks!  Use the official chart here to see if your family qualifies. 

If your family uses any of the programs listed below, you automatically qualify for free or reduced-price school meals:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
  • Unemployment compensation in most states
  1. Request an Application

Most schools either provide this application at registration or send it home at the beginning of every year.  If you didn’t receive yours, you could contact the office of your child’s school.  They’ll redirect you to their designated nutrition program, which can give you all the help you need in retrieving the application.

Though every application may be slightly different, most will request specific information about how much the household regularly earns and any other assistance any member of the immediate family receives. 

  1. Return the Completed Form

Once you’ve completed the application, return it either via mail or in person.  Your child should be able to enjoy the benefits of free or reduced-price meals within the week.

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If you need assistance completing this form, feel free to reach out to the school for help!  The nutrition program is happy to help by answering questions and providing any additional support you may need.  

The forms are even available in fifty different languages- ensuring your child’s opportunity to participate in this program!

For more information on ways you can save money during the school year, check out this great article on how you can access free school supplies!

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Students who take advantage of free and reduced-price meals are guaranteed healthy, filling meal options throughout the entire school year!

Benefits of Applying for Free and Reduced Price School Meals

You may have already heard the news: recently, the USDA announced that because of the Covid-19 pandemic, they’d be offering free meals to all students enrolled in public schools!  All students will enjoy complimentary meals twice a day for the rest of the 2021-2022 school year.

In addition, the free and reduced-price school meals program has more to offer your child than food alone. 

Free ACT Waivers

By applying for this program, you open the door to save more money outside of the cafeteria through free ACT waivers.

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The ACT is a test generally given to students who intend to enroll into college. The ACT determines the educational needs of a student in addition to information about any potential scholarships, loans or other financial assistance they can qualify for. To see to it that all children are given equal opportunities for success, the ACT offers four free ACT tests to all students currently enrolled in the free and reduced-price lunch program.  

Outside of this program, a single ACT costs sixty dollars.  Through this program, your family can save up to two hundred-forty dollars per student and ensure that your child has every opportunity available to any of their peers!

Dual Credit Deals

A growing number of high schools around the country are regularly offering dual credit classes right on their campus.  These courses provide both college and high school credit, allowing students to earn college experience right on their home turf, at a deeply reduced rate.

Many universities are willing to lower that rate even more!

Dual credit classes work by having specific colleges sponsor the classes.  While not every college honors this deal, many offer great rates for students who receive free and reduced lunch.  Many schools will even offer these classes completely free!

With these benefits, your son or daughter could finish high school halfway to their associate’s degree, all without spending any significant money.

Great Scholarship Opportunities

Colleges benefit from enrolling as diverse a population of students as possible. This means that every college, even Ivy League institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, offer exceptional opportunities for ambitious students from lower-income families.

The easiest way to find those students is to see who applies for free and reduced-price school meals.

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Applying for free and reduced-price school meals can mean free ACTs, additional scholarships, and much more!

Final Thoughts:

The benefits of applying for free and reduced-price lunches reach beyond enjoying regular, healthy meals; your child can qualify for scholarship opportunities and ACT practice that can save them thousands throughout their education.

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Jessica Richburg is a freelance writer and educator. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, she's located on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where she passes the time reading, writing, and trying not to be eaten by her feral cat.