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FAQ - The Federal Free and Reduced Price Meal Program

Frequently-asked questions about the Federal Free and Reduced Price Meal Program:

Are charter school students eligible for free and reduced price school meals?

Yes. They must meet the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Child Nutrition Program eligibility requirements.

What is the USDA Child Nutrition Program?

The program subsidizes meals for eligible students through its School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program.

  • Breakfast is free for all students if the school uses New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) SchoolFood. Schools using other food vendors may be charged a fee depending on the vendor and service provided.
  • For lunch, the federal government provides a per-meal subsidy of $2.74 for each student eligible for free lunch and of $2.34 for each student eligible for reduced price lunch for school authorities serving greater than 60% free and reduced lunches.

For more information on the USDA Program click here.

What are the requirements for a school participating in the USDA Child Nutrition program?

A participating school must establish a Wellness Policy by July 1 of the year the school is to open. The policy must include goals for nutrition education and guidelines for foods available on school campuses, and must involve school and community partners in developing strategies to model, foster and teach children to eat well and be physically active.

How is a student’s eligibility for meal subsidies determined?

Students qualify for either free or reduced price meals based on their household income. In August of each year, the NYCDOE releases a new School Meals Application for schools to distribute to families. Student codes from the prior year are available in ATS for the first 30 operational days of the new NYCDOE school year. Schools should have parents fill out new forms before the prior year's codes expire.

Only original forms are accepted and the forms should not be bent. Families return School Meals Application forms to schools, and schools send them to NYCDOE SchoolFood to be scanned. All charter schools are scanner schools; student data is entered into ATS by NYCDOE SchoolFood, not the schools. Note that schools must request School Meal Applications from NYCDOE SchoolFood in May of the prior school year; schools should specify the number of forms they require in each language.

Avoid the headache of the paper form; encourage families to use the online application. It is also processed faster that the paper form.

Does every guardian or parent have to fill out the School Meals Application?

No, but it is critical to collect as many of these forms as possible because these forms are the basis for additional funding from the state and federal governments and are used to create peer groups for NYCDOE progress reports. Be aware that the application can be difficult to collect from families who may have concerns over the personal information they must disclose on the form; encourage concerned families to use the online application instead.

When do schools start receiving their free and reduced meal subsidies?

Benefits begin only after a form is completed, reviewed and approved. There is no mechanism for retroactively refunding/crediting money spent on school lunches. To be reimbursed, the school must take three of the five components of lunch offered by NYCDOE SchoolFood.

Where can schools or families go for assistance with the School Meals Application?

NYCDOE SchoolFood School Meals Application
Telephone: 718.707.4400

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