More Than a School Meal Application

Since the start of the pandemic, schools have proudly served all students breakfast and lunch at no cost regardless of family income. Unfortunately, free meals have not been extended for the 2022-2023 school year. Schools now need every family to submit a school meal application to ensure all students have continued access to nutritious meals.

Families who may not qualify for free or reduced price meals may think it's not important for them to complete these applications. That's not true! School meal applications are used for so much more than just certifying students for free or reduced-price school meals.

School meal applications also impact:

  • School Funding: Schools may receive additional funding for state and federal programs and services.
  • Athletics: Families may be eligible for free or discounted fees to participate in activities.
  • Internet Access: Families may qualify for discounted rates on home internet service.
  • Academic Tests: Students may receive reduced registration fees for AP, SAT and/or ACT tests and discounted rates associated with college admissions.

Every eligible form adds valuable resources to your school. Families submitting their school meal application help ensure all students can access these key benefits.

Completing an application takes less than 10 minutes and only one is needed per family (not one per student). Applications are completely confidential. No Social Security number is required. Since families' financial situation may change from year to year, every family should fill out a new application each school year.

FREE RESOURCE: Download the Cafeteria Connection version of this article to send to your parents! Available in English and Spanish. You can also download accompanying graphics for Facebook and Instagram.

Bonus Issue: We also have an issue of Cafeteria Connection that explains to parents why school meals are no longer free. Download that issue now too!


Special Provisions Exempting Schools from Gathering Applications

There are a few circumstances under which families and schools may forego school meal applications:

  • In SY 2022/23, Minnesota students whose families are enrolled in Medicaid can be directly certified for school meals rather than completing a meal application thanks to a pilot program in the state. The direct certification process already applies to students whose families receive SNAP or WIC benefits.
  • USDA provisions 1, 2, 3:
    • Provision 1 reduces application burdens by allowing schools where at least 80 percent of the children enrolled are eligible for free or reduced price meals to certify children eligible for free meals for a 2-year period. Schools continue to take daily meal counts of the number of meals served to children by type as the basis for calculating reimbursement claims.
    • Provision 2 requires that the school serve meals to participating children at no charge but reduces application burdens to once every 4 years and simplifies meal counting and claiming procedures by allowing a school to receive meal reimbursement based on claiming percentages. Additional 4-year extensions to Provision 2 are possible when certain conditions are met.
    • Provision 3 requires that the school serve meals to participating children at no charge but reduces application burdens and meal counting and claiming procedures by allowing a school to receive a comparable level of federal cash and commodity assistance as the school received in the last year in which free and reduced price eligibility determinations were made, adjusted for enrollment, inflation and operating days if applicable, for a period up to 4 years. Additional 4-year extensions to Provision 3 are possible when certain conditions are met.

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