Free school lunch and breakfast program.
Kids from low income families will receive a free breakfast and/or lunch while at school. The federal government works with states to ensure students get the nutritional support they need for the 2023/24 school year The free breakfast and lunch program near you is available for kids in kindergarten up through high school. Find how to get free meals from a school below.
The USDA (Department of Agriculture) works with state governments, non-profits and other agencies to help feed children from low-income families, single mom or dad homes and others. There are several different options available that are near you as part of the 2023-2024 Department of Agriculture Free School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. There are also free student meals for families on benefits including SNAP food stamps, Medicaid, TANF or other government assistance programs.
Free school breakfast
Most public and private schools and educational institutions take part in the National School Breakfast Program. Tens of millions of children receive a heavily subsidized or free, hot breakfast per day. This first meal of the day is the most important and can be critical to getting a child in the correct state of mind and prepare them for the long school day ahead. The School Breakfast Program, or SBP, is run by state agencies. There is even a free breakfast for half-day pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs.
The breakfasts served to kids are required to meet nutritional standards that include fruits, vegetables, grains, and healthy proteins, thereby ensuring that students receive necessary nutrients. This is also based on a students grade as well. The ultimate beneficiaries are students across all age groups, especially those from low-income families or that use food stamps or an EBT card. Additionally, it mitigates the burden on families struggling financially, who might not be able to consistently provide nutritious breakfasts for their children.
Free school lunch program
The National Free School Lunch Program is another of the USDA programs available. This may be the most widely used resource. It is funded by the federal government and the free meal program for students is available in both nonprofit private and of course public schools. Lunches may also be served in so called residential child care institutions. The service is formally known as Free School Lunch Program (FSLP), and it will provide low cost, or free, nutritionally balanced lunches to children, young adults and students, inbcluding those whose families are on EBT or TANF.
- This can include things like fresh fruits, vegetables, restaurant quality food, and perishable goods.
- Canned goods such as rice, pasta and more may be offered as well along with meats and frozen goods.
- Bonus items are provided only as they become available through agricultural surplus or government commodities. The variety of USDA foods that schools and educational facilities provide depends on district and the state.
- School will often partner with local restaurants to offer free food to students, including those that get EBT or SNAP food stamps. More on restaurants that take EBT near you.
There are income levels that need to be met by the family that is applying to FSLP for the 2023-2024 school years. They are based on certain federal government low income and poverty levels, with free school lunches also part of SNAP, Medicaid and other public assistance. The scale will take into consideration the entire income and also the number of members of the family.
Another available option at lunch is the USDA Special Milk Program. This provides free dairy items, namely milk to children in schools and other day or childcare centers. The child can get the milk or free dairy items, such as cheese or yogurt, at no cost to them.
After school meals and snacks for kids
In some parts of the country, free after school snacks are provided to children as well. Or students will get free food during summer or holiday breaks. The program eligibility is usually based on the same income eligibility basis as the school meals. One key difference though is for those programs that operate in parts of the country in which 50 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced price meals. In these regions and states students will get free after school snacks regardless of income, snacks for free.
Most states also offer the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. This is run in partnership with the federal government USDA and the Department of Defense. The DOD provides districts with surplus perishable items that are fresh, healthy, and ready to be served to children at lunch or a breakfast.
2023/24 application process for free breakfast or lunch near you
Each state has their own process. The types of meals served will vary by state, availability of resources, district, and other factors. For any of these USDA school, nutrition and snack programs, in general states have their own application phone numbers as noted below. Or look into how to get emergency food stamps today.
While the focus is on supporting low income families, the application process for any of these government programs is flexible. What will happen is your school district or administrator will send out applications at the beginning of each year. If you don’t get one, and think you may qualify, then call.
However, as added flexibility, someone may apply for any of the school meal programs at any time throughout the year. This can be easily done by sending a household application directly to your school requesting enrollment into the free school lunch or breakfast program near you.
After you apply for this government benefit, the school or local education organization will review and process your application. People with no money, families on government benefits such as SNAP or TANF cash aid will automatically qualify for free school nutrition. They will be the ones that issue an eligibility determination and it is based on your income as well as number of household members.
Additional flexibility is available to those that are receiving help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP benefits. If you fall into this category then your child will automatically qualify for free school meals and snacks.
State agencies for school lunch, snacks and breakfast
The sites that process applications for any government supported student meal and snack programs near you for 2023 and 2024 are below. They can provide more information if needed.
Alabama, Child Nutrition Programs, Department of Education, telephone number is 334-242-1988 or 334-694-4660.
Alaska, Child Nutrition Programs, Department of Education and Early Development. Dial 907-465-8708 for information on snacks, free lunches for students, and other food assistance.
Arizona, Health and Nutrition Services, Department of Education. Dial 800-352-4558 for details on assistance. This can include free lunch programs, vegetables, fruits, and even a breakfast.
Arkansas, Child Nutrition Unit, Department of Education, call 501-324-9502
- Another Arkansas government agency to try is the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education, Department of Human Services, 800-482-5850
California, Nutrition Services Division, Department of Education. Dial 800-952-5609 for information on free school breakfast or lunch programs in CA as well as after school snacks for families on Cal-Fresh.
Colorado, Office of School Nutrition, Department of Education, Call 303-866-6600 or 888-245-6092
- Or residents can dial Prevention Services Division, Department of Public Health and Environment, 303-692-2330
Connecticut, Bureau of Health, Nutrition, Family Services & Adult Education, Department of Education. Main number is 860-807-2050
Delaware, School and Community Nutrition Programs, Department of Education. Dial 302-735-4060 to apply for free breakfast programs, vegetables or fruits and other meals for students of all ages.
District of Columbia, Office of the State Superintendent of Education, 202-654-6118
Florida, Food, Nutrition and Wellness, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service. They help low-income parents get a free, healthy lunch or meal for their kid(s) during the school year. The main number is 800-504-6609
- Two other agencies to try in Florida are the CACFP (Child), Bureau of Child Nutrition Programs, Department of Health (dial 850-245-4323) or the Florida, Department of Elder Affairs. Telephone 850-414-2337.
Georgia, Georgia School Nutrition Program, Georgia Department of Education, 404-651-6600. Or call Bright From the Start, Department of Early Care and Learning. Dial 404-656-5957. Both offices process applications to help ensure kids have a breakfast, lunch, or meal - even summer the summer.
Hawaii, Office of Hawaii Child Nutrition Programs, Department of Education, 808-587-3600
Idaho, Child Nutrition Programs, Department of Education, 800-432-4601
Illinois, Nutrition Programs, State Board of Education, 800-545-7892. Seniors can try calling the Illinois, Department on Aging, call 217-785-3356
Indiana, Office of School and Community Nutrition, Department of Education, call 800-537-1142
Iowa, Bureau of Nutrition, Health and Transportation Services, Department of Education. Main number is 515-281-4757
Kansas, Child Nutrition and Wellness, State Department of Education, dial 785-296-2276 for information on free breakfast and lunches for children and students.
Kentucky, Division of School and Community Nutrition, Department of Education. Call 502-564-5625
Louisiana, Division of Nutrition Support, Department of Education. Various nutritional support assistance programs are offered to students from low-income or poor families. Call 1.877.453.2721 or 225-342-3769
Maine, Child Nutrition Services, Department of Education, telephone 207-624-6842
- Another agency to try in Maine is the Office of Child and Family Services, Department of Health and Human Services. Dial 207-624-7924
Maryland, School and Community Nutrition Programs Branch, Department of Education helps parents on WIC, SNAP as well as the unemployed get free breakfast, lunches or meals for their kids. Call 410-767-0199
Massachusetts, Nutrition, Health and Safety, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, dial 781-338-6479
Michigan, Office of School Support Services, Department of Education. The site processes applications for government resources, such as fruits, lunches, snacks, and more. Phone 517-373-2313 or 833-633-5788.
Minnesota, Food and Nutrition Services, Department of Education, 800-366-8922
Mississippi, Office of Healthy Schools, Department of Education. Application number is 601-576-5000
Missouri, School Food Services, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, call 573-751-3526. Or dial the Bureau of Community Food and Nutrition Assistance Programs, Department of Health and Senior Services, 800-733-6251
Montana, Early Childhood Services Bureau, Department of Public Health and Human Services, Call (406) 444-1958 or 888-307-9333
- Residents can also dial the Montana, School Nutrition Programs, Office of Public Instruction, phone 406-444-2501
Nebraska, Nutrition Services, Department of Education. Call 800-731-2233 for details on how to enroll into school lunch or breakfast program.
Nevada, Office of Child Nutrition and School Health, Department of Education. Call 775-687-9200 or 702-668-4585
New Hampshire, Bureau of Nutrition Programs and Services, Department of Education, telephone 603-271-3860
New Jersey, Division of Food and Nutrition, Department of Agriculture. Call 609-984-0692 for assistance, including food, lunches, and breakfasts, for low income students and families.
New Mexico, Student Nutrition Bureau, Public Education Department, 505-827-1821. Or call the Family Nutrition Bureau, Children, Youth and Families Department, phone 505-827-9961
New York, Child Nutrition Program Administration, State Education Department can be reached at 518-473-8781 or call the Child and Adult Food Program, Department of Health, phone 800-942-3858.
North Carolina, Child Nutrition Section, Department of Public Instruction, dial 919-807-3507. Customer service will help families with no money or a low income enroll into USDA free school breakfast or lunch programs.
- Another organization to try for information on school lunches is the North Carolina, Special Nutrition Programs Unit, Department of Health and Human Services. Phone 919-707-5799.
North Dakota, Child Nutrition and Food Distribution Programs, Department of Public Instruction, dial 888-338-3663
Ohio, Office for Child Nutrition, Department of Education. The main number for free meals for students, snack programs and other benefits is 800-808-6325
Oklahoma, Child Nutrition Programs, Department of Education takes applications for the National free school lunch and breakfast program, fresh fruits for kids and other low-income benefits, including for families on EBT. Telephone 405-521-3327
- Another government agency to try is the Oklahoma, Commodity Distribution Unit, Department of Human Services, dial 405-521-6472 or 1-800-848-4019
Oregon, Child Nutrition and Food Distribution, Department of Education, phone 503-947-5888
Pennsylvania, Division of Food and Nutrition, Department of Education, main number 800-331-0129. Apply for School Nutrition and Wellness programs.
Puerto Rico, Food and Nutrition Services, Department of Education, 787-773-6273
Rhode Island, Office of Statewide Efficiencies, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Call 401-222-4600
South Carolina, Office of Health and Nutrition, Department of Education food service groups at 803-734-8205. Or try calling the Office of School Food Services and Nutrition, Department of Social Services. Call 800-768-5700.
South Dakota, Child and Adult Nutrition Services, Department of Education. Dial 605-773-3413 or 605-773-3113
Tennessee, School Nutrition Services, Department of Education. Phone of DSS and School Meal programs is 866-311-4287.
- Or try calling the Adult and Community Programs, Department of Human Services. Dial (615) 741-5158 or 615-313-4749.
Texas, Food and Nutrition, Department of Agriculture, dial 877-839-6325. They help kids get a free breakfast, lunch, or meal at school. There are also USDA summer snack programs in Texas, healthy fruits and vegetables for students and more, with all applications in Spanish too.
Utah, Child Nutrition Programs, State Office of Education, 801-538-7513
Vermont, Child Nutrition, Department of Education, 802-828-5153
Virgin Islands, Office of Special Nutrition Programs, Department of Education, dial 340-774-9373
Virginia, Office of School Nutrition Programs, Department of Education. Call DSS at (800) 552-3431 for information on food assistance programs for families or children. Another agency to call is the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Food Programs, Department of Health, call 877-618-7282.
Washington, Child Nutrition Services, State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, dial 360-725-6000 or 877-204-6486
West Virginia, Office of Child Nutrition, Department of Education runs the free federal government lunch program. Dial 304-558-2708.
Wisconsin, Community Nutrition Team, Department of Public Instruction, telephone 608-267-9123
Wyoming, Health, Safety & Nutrition Division, Department of Education, call 307-777-6263 or (307) 777-7675
Conclusion - Students can get free meals at school
The federal government and every state offer assistance programs to low-income families to ensure that kids can get some form of nutrition during the school year as well as summer. There are free breakfast programs, school nutrition services, weekend backpacks passed out to help feed students during the weekend and of course free USDA approved lunches for students.
Parent should contact their local school for applications, or call a state agency near them as noted above. There is also information on USDA free meals for students that can serve as a resource.
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