Application requirement resumes for free and discounted meals

Families who need help paying for school meals must apply for it for the first time since 2020.

The federal Keep Kids Fed Act restores the requirement to request free and reduced-price school meals, the state Department of Education announced Tuesday. Congress suspended the candidacy requirement for families during the pandemic.

There is no deadline to apply, but the SDE encourages families to do so before the start of the 2022-23 school year to confirm their eligibility.

Reinstatement forces some low-income students who are above the poverty line to pay a reduced price for school meals. Others may qualify for free meals. The full cost of meals has been covered for all students, with no request required, for the past two school years.

Families participating in federal assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Idaho Temporary Family Assistance are automatically eligible. Those who participate in food distribution programs on Indian reservations are also automatically eligible, but an application may still be required to participate.

Families can also qualify for free or reduced-price meals based solely on income criteria and do not need to enroll in an assistance program to access meals.

Most schools in Idaho participate in the National School Lunch Program. Parents should contact their district or the charter school where the programs are offered to complete an application. Go here for a list of districts in Idaho and links to their websites, where their contact information will be listed.

Only one application is required per household, even for those whose children attend more than one school in a district. Eligibility remains valid for the entire school year. An application must be resubmitted at the beginning of each school year.

“We don’t want families who have received free meals for the past two years to be sidelined by this change in federal policy,” said State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra. “Please, if you need help with school meals, contact your district office. We want all children in Idaho to be nourished, healthy, and ready to learn and succeed.

About Devin Bodkin

EdNews associate editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and the education of students living in poverty. He lives and works in eastern Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be contacted by email at [email protected].

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