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National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs Benefits

Program Description

The National School Lunch and National School Breakfast programs provide nutritionally balanced meals to children as part of their regular school day. These programs are federally assisted meal programs operate in over 100,000 public and non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions.

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers these programs at the Federal level. At the State level, the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs are usually administered by State education agencies, which operate the program through agreements with school food authorities.

General Program Requirements

Children qualify to receive free or low-cost meals while they attend school (high school and under) if their families' household incomes meet the current income eligibility guidelines. Children who participate in certain other programs, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and children who are migrant, runaway, or homeless are automatically eligible for free meals. You can find out what the maximum income limits for eligibility are on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) FNS "School Meals" page.

Your Next Steps

The following information will lead you to the next steps to apply for this program.

Application Process

Contact your child's school to find out what meals are served, and how to apply for free or reduced-price meals. Your state agency can also give you information about school meals.

The Food and Nutrition Service provides program and state contact information on the Child Nutrition Programs State Locator page.  

Program Contact Information

For more information visit FNS's Child Nutrition Programs page.
To find specific contacts, visit FNS's Contact Us page.

Additional Information

Current Method of Tribal Eligibility: Program not specific to American Indians and Alaska Natives, but they are eligible
Funding Type: Mandatory
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 10.555, 10.553
Matching Funds Required: No