FDACS Announces Guidelines for Free and Reduced-Price School Meal Programs

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Aug 3, 2021

Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness announced household size and income guidelines for free and reduced-price meals and free milk under the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, and Special Milk Programs. Children from households that meet the federal guidelines on household size and income are eligible for free or reduced-price meals or free milk.

“Ensuring that all children in Florida have access to fresh, healthy foods remains one of my top priorities,” said Commissioner Nikki Fried. “I’m proud that our partnership with USDA serves free and reduced-price school meals to nearly three million children in Florida, providing dependable nutrition that helps students stay focused and succeed academically.”

The following household size and income criteria will be used for determining eligibility:

INCOME ELIGIBILITY GUIDELINES*

EFFECTIVE FROM JULY 1, 2021 TO JUNE 30, 2022

INCOME ELIGIBILITY GUIDELINES

*For the 48 contiguous United States, District of Columbia, Guam and territories

Application forms are being provided to all homes with a letter to parents or guardians. To apply for free or reduced-price benefits, households must complete the application as soon as possible, sign it, and return it to the school. One application should be submitted for all the students enrolled in the school food authority. Households should answer all applicable questions on the form. An application that does not contain all the required information cannot be processed and approved by the school. The required information is:

SNAP/TANF HOUSEHOLDS: If a household currently receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families” (TANF) for any child or other household member, they need only to list the child’s name and SNAP or TANF case number and sign the application.

ALL OTHER HOUSEHOLDS: If a household’s income is at or below the level shown on the income scale, children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals or free milk. Households must provide the following information: (1) the names of all household members, (2) all household income last month and source of income received by each household member (for example, EARNINGS, WELFARE, PENSION, or OTHER). Income is all money before taxes or anything else is taken out, (3) the signature of an adult household member, and (4) the last four numbers of the Social Security number of the adult signing the application.

The information on the application for free or reduced-price meals may be verified by the school or other officials at any time during the school year.

The information households provide will be treated confidentially and will be used only for the eligibility determinations and verification of data.

Households may apply for benefits at any time during the school year. If a household is not eligible now, but has a decrease in household income, an increase in household size, or a household member becomes unemployed, an application should be filled out at that time.

Foster children are eligible for free meal or milk benefits regardless of the household income. If a household has foster children living with them and they wish to apply for meals or milk benefits for them, they should contact the school for help with the application.

Children enrolled in the Head Start/Even Start Program or the Migrant Education Program or who are considered homeless or runaway by the school district’s homeless liaison should contact the school for assistance in receiving benefits.

Under the provisions of the policy, a local school food authority official will review applications and determine eligibility. Households dissatisfied with the ruling of the official may wish to discuss it with the school.

Households also have the right to a fair hearing which may be initiated by contacting the hearing official in the local school food authority.

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) established a waiver to allow the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) Seamless Summer Option (SSO) to operate when school is open during the regular school year, through June 30, 2022. This waiver is expected to support access to nutritious meals while minimizing potential exposure to the novel coronavirus (COVID–19).

Under the National School Lunch Act, 42 USC 1761(a)(8), school food authorities may provide “summer or school vacation food service” through the SSO; the statute does not allow school food authorities to provide SSO meals when schools are open during the regular school year. However, FNS recognizes that state agencies and school food authorities need additional support and flexibility to continue serving meals to children while maintaining appropriate safety measures and managing the impacts of COVID–19.

FNS established a waiver to allow NSLP sponsors to claim meals under SSO and/or SFSP.

In accordance with federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language), should contact the agency (state or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.  Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Formapplication/pdf ], (AD-3027) found online at: How to File a Complaint, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

  1. Mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture  Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights  1400 Independence Avenue, SW  Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;
  2. Fax: (202) 690-7442; or
  3. Email: .

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