Nonprofit No Kid Hungry Virginia and Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow are urging parents to apply for free meals for their children at school under newly expanded eligibility rules this year.
This year, a federal waiver allowing all students to receive free meals at school without an application expired, meaning students are once again paying to eat breakfast and lunch at school. Families must once again apply for free meals this school year, but the state has expanded the eligibility for those programs to include higher incomes than before.
Previously, students from families with incomes at or below 130% of the federal poverty level could qualify for free school meals. Students from families making up to 185% of the federal income poverty level, $51,338 for a family of four, qualified for reduced-price meals.
With a new infusion of state funding from the General Assembly this year, students who previously qualified for the reduced-price meals instead can get free meals.
Students are also automatically eligible for free meals if anyone in their household receives benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations or Medicaid. Schools should notify those families that their child is automatically eligible.
“School meals are important sources of nutrition for students and help reduce food insecurity in the commonwealth,” Balow stated. “I urge all families to apply to determine if they qualify. Filling out an application is simple and takes less than 15 minutes.”
“School meals are critical to supporting academic success and well-being,” No Kid Hungry Virginia Director Sarah Steely stated. “We are grateful to all school nutrition staff who work hard to fuel our students’ minds and bodies.”
According to the Virginia Department of Education, more than 525,000 students qualified for free meals in Virginia when data was last collected in 2019. The new eligibility means approximately 64,500 more kids can access free meals.
“It’s more important than ever for families to apply for free school meals. If no application is on file, students will need to pay for meals on the first day of school and may start to accrue meal debt,” VDOE School Nutrition Director Sandy Curwood stated. “And the good news is, if you qualify, free meals are seamless. Students will access their meals in the cafeteria with a pin number or a lunch card, with no overt identification. Please apply now.”
Learn more about Loudoun School Nutrition Services and find applications for free and reduced meals at lcpshealthycafe.org.