School Meal Applications

ApplicationThe information gathered through school meal applications (SMAs) determines students’ eligibility for free, reduced price, or paid school meals. They also serve as a way to gather demographic information about school and neighborhood populations. This information determines the school’s eligibility for federal programs, such as the Summer Food Service Program, and benefits including Title I funding for resources such as books, computers, and classroom equipment.

Despite these benefits, many families never return their application to the school. When encouraging families to complete the application, keep these things in mind: 

  • Households can fill out a school meal application at any time during the year.
  • Households that have experienced a change in income due to layoffs or decreased work hours can reapply for meal benefits even if they were denied benefits prior to the income change. 
  • USDA Food and Nutrition Service offers the SMA in 34 different languages for families that do not speak English and who may have trouble filling out the standard application.

PrincipalSuperintendents, principals, school nutrition directors, teachers, and other school personnel play an important role in communicating the importance of SMAs to students and parents. The Child Nutrition Outreach Program has several strategies to help maximize the number of applications completed and returned.