ELIGIBILITY FOR FREE OR REDUCED-PRICE MEALS IN THE NATIONAL SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction recently announced the 2012-13 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) policy for free and reduced-price meals for children enrolled in North Carolina's public schools. The USDA's school meals programs help ensure all students have access to nutritious meals at school.
State Superintendent June Atkinson said that research indicates that eating habits affect student performance and health. "Children who are hungry have difficulty learning and do not perform as well in the classroom as students who are well-nourished. Eating a nutritious meal can help ensure that students are better focused on their studies," Atkinson said.
The federal income eligibility guidelines for July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013 are listed below:
|HOUSEHOLD SIZE||ANNUAL||MONTHLY||TWICE PER MONTH||EVERY TWO WEEKS||WEEKLY|
|Free||Reduced Price||Free||Reduced Price||Free||Reduced Price||Free||Reduced Price||Free||Reduced Price|
|For each additional 1 household member|
The household size and income criteria referenced above will be used to determine student eligibility for free and reduced price meal benefits. Children from households whose income is at or below the levels shown are eligible for free or reduced price meals. Children who are members of households that are eligible to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) are automatically eligible for free meals. SNAP/TANF families will be certified by the determining official by direct certification. Foster children who are the legal responsibility of a social services agency or court are considered categorically eligible for free meal benefits regardless of the income of the household with whom they reside. (Note: The SNAP Program was formerly known as the "Food Stamp" Program. In North Carolina, the SNAP Program is called "Food and Nutrition Services" or FNS.)
Applications for free and reduced price school meals are being made available to all households. Applications should be available in the principal's office at each school. To apply for free or reduced price meals, households must complete the application and return it to the school or to the Child Nutrition Office within the school district, charter school, non-public school or other institution participating in the National School Lunch Program. The information provided on the application for free and reduced price meal benefits will be used to determine the student's eligibility for free or reduced price meals. SNAP/TANF families do not need to complete an application because they are automatically certified by the determining official via direct certification.
For school officials to determine eligibility for free and reduced price benefits, an adult household member must sign the application. Applications must include the names of all household members, the amount and source of income received by each household member, and the last four digits of the social security number of the adult household member who signs the application. If the household member signing the application does not have a social security number, he/she must indicate that a social security number is not available. All applications for free and reduced price meal benefits are subject to verification of income at any time during the school year by school or other program officials.
Under the provisions of the free and reduced price policy, the Child Nutrition Administrator or designee in each school district will review applications and determine eligibility. Parents or guardians dissatisfied with the ruling of the official may wish to discuss the decision with the determining official on an informal basis. Parents wishing to make a formal appeal for a hearing on the decision may make a request either orally or in writing to the school district, charter school, non-public school or other participating institution.
If a household member becomes unemployed or if the household size increases, the household should contact the school. Such changes may qualify children of the household for school meals benefits if the household's income falls at or below the levels shown above.
To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call toll free 866.632.9992 (Voice). Individuals who are hearing impaired or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at 800.877.8339; or 800.845.6136 (Spanish). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
For more information contact the Child Nutrition Services of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction at 919.807.3506 or contact the Child Nutrition Administrator in the school district, charter school or non-public school of other participating institution in which your child is enrolled.
MOST COMMON QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT FREE AND REDUCED PRICE MEALS
Do you need to fill out an application for each of your children?
No, you only need one application for each household.
Do you need to fill out an application if your children are receiving food stamps?
No. If your household receives assistance from the Food Stamp Program or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program (TANF), your children will be notified of their eligibility and they will be provided free meal benefits unless you notify the school that you choose to decline benefits. You should only submit an application if you are not notified of your eligibility by a specified date determined by the school.
Who can get free meals?
All children in households receiving benefits from Food and Nutrition Services, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations or TANF/Work First can get free meals regardless of your income. Also, your children can get free meals if your household's gross income is within the free limits on the Federal Income Guidelines.
Can Foster Children Get Free Meals?
Yes, foster children who are under the legal responsibility of a foster care agency or court, are eligible for free meals. Any foster child in the household is eligible for free meals regardless of income.
Can homeless, runaway and migrant children get free meals?
Yes, children who meet the definition of homeless, runaway, or migrant qualify for free meals. If your children meeting the definition of homeless, runaway or migrant have not been informed that they will get free meals, contact the school's homeless, runaway or migrant liaison.
Can children enrolled in a school's Head Start Program get free meals?
If your children meet this criterion, and you have not been informed that they will get free meals, you must contact the Child Nutrition Administrator in your school district.
Who can get reduced-price meals?
Children from families whose total household income is within the reduced-price limits on the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines Chart can get school meals at a maximum reduced price of 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch. There is a special provision in North Carolina that enables many students to receive all or a portion of reduced price breakfast meals at no cost to the household. Contact the school's Child Nutrition Administrator for specific details about this provision in your school.
Should you fill out an application if you get a letter this school year saying your children are approved for free or reduced price meals?
Read the letter carefully and follow the instructions, or call your school district's Child Nutrition Administrator.
My child's application was approved last year. Do I need to fill out another one?
Yes. Your child's application is only good for that school year and for the first few days of this school year. You must send in a new application unless the school told you that your child is eligible for the new school year.
I get WIC. Can my child(ren) get free meals?
Children in households participating in WIC may be eligible for free or reduced price meals, but you will need to fill out an application.
Will the information you give be checked?
Yes, and you may be asked to send written proof.
If you do not qualify now, may you apply later?
Yes. You may apply at any time during the school year if your household size goes up, income goes down, or if you start getting Food Stamps, TANF, or other benefits. If you lose your job, your children may be able to get free or reduced-price meals.
What if you disagree with the school's decision about my application?
You should talk to the district's Child Nutrition Administrator or you may also ask for a hearing by calling or writing the school officials.
May you apply if someone in your household is not a U. S. citizen?
Yes. You or your child(ren) do not have to be U. S. citizens to qualify for free or reduced-price meals.
Who should you include as members of your household?
You must include all people living in your household, related or not (such as grandparents, other relatives, or friends) who share income and expenses. You must include yourself and all children who live with you. If you live with other people who are economically independent (for example, people who do not support, who do not share income with you or your children, and who pay a prorated share of expenses), do not include them.
What if your income is not always the same?
List the amount that you normally receive. For example, if you normally make $1000 each month, but you missed some work last month and only made $900, put down that you made $1000 per month. If you normally get overtime, include it, but do not include it if you only work overtime sometimes. If you have lost a job or had your hours or wages reduced, use your current income.
We are in the military. Do we include our housing allowance as income?
If you get an off-base housing allowance, it must be included as income. However, if your housing is part of the Military Housing Privatization Initiative, do not include your housing allowance as income.
My spouse is deployed to a combat zone. Is his/her combat pay counted as income?
No, if the combat pay is received in addition to his/her basic pay because of his/her deployment and it wasn't received before he/she was deployed, combat pay is not counted as income. Contact the district's Child Nutrition Administrator for more information.
My Family needs more help. Are there other programs we might apply for?
In North Carolina, to find out how to apply Food and Nutrition Services, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program or other assistance benefits, contact your local assistance office or call the Careline phone number (800.662.7030) .
Will children be treated differently if they receive free or reduced meal benefits?
No. Children receiving free or reduced-price meals are treated the same as children who pay for their meals. In accordance with Federal Law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, all schools and institutions participating in the federally funded school nutrition programs are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.
For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.