With the start of a new school year, millions of children will need access to nutritious school meals and afterschool snacks. Many of these children qualify for these meals at a free or reduced price. While most schools are working diligently to identify children, extra efforts to reach out to eligible and newly qualifying families are needed.
There are two reasons why schools need to accurately enroll qualifying students for free and reduced price meals. First, studies show that students succeed better in school when their bellies are full than when they are empty. Second, the more accurately a school accounts for these students, the more likely that school may qualify for additional funding to improve important educational resources, such as technological learning tools and library books.
There are two ways that families may qualify for school meal programs.
- Direct certification allows families who currently receive Food Stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or participate in the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) to enroll automatically with school meal programs.
- A family’s income level may qualify children for free or reduced price meals even if they do not participate in the above programs.
- Strategies in Tough Economic Times: Improving School Meal Access and Expanding Participation (pdf) outlines several approaches to ensure that schools include newly eligible families and draw down additional federal funds.
- A Guide to Collecting School Meal Applications (pdf) lays out important strategies for increasing the number of eligible children accessing school meals and helping schools to leverage additional funding.
- School Meals Outreach Brochure (pdf) explains to parents how to seek free or reduced-price school meals for their children. A Spanish version (pdf) is also available.
- FRAC's Breakfast Outreach Resource Center and Afterschool Resource Center provide best practices, outreach materials, tools and strategies to get more healthy meals and snacks to children.
- Afterschool Nutrition Standards of Excellence (pdf) can help you evaluate and create "healthy" afterschool programs.