Free and reduced lunches – Are we eligible?

What to do to receive free lunches for your children.

Are you having a difficult time making ends meet? Do you have children in school? If they don’t already receive free or reduced lunch, it is not too late to apply. There are many life changes that decrease the amount of your monthly budget – another child, loss of job, fewer work hours – which may make your children eligible to get a nutritious breakfast/lunch at school or during summer feeding programs. If you already receive services from Food Assistance Program (FAP), Department of Human Services (DHS) or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), you are already eligible.

Your local school’s food service director should be able to help you figure out what to do to apply for this benefit. If you feel uneasy contacting that person directly, you can view the Eligibility Manual for School Meals to do research and see if you qualify.

The application you get from your school asks basic questions about your income and household composition. Michigan State Universit Extension says that income is based on your gross from the previous month and includes:

  • Income from work
  • Welfare, child support, alimony
  • Pensions, retirement, social security
  • Other income, like worker’s compensation, unemployment, SSI, VA benefits, etc.
  • Net income from self-owned businesses, day cares or farms

Your household composition consists of all people living in your home, related or not:

  • Grandparents, relatives, friends
  • Foster children
  • Homeless and run-aways living with you

Keep in mind that a social security number is not necessary – if a person is living in your household, whether homeless, migrant, foster or not, they count in your household composition.

If you have many children living in your home, only one application is needed, but needs to be filled out every school year. If your children received reduced lunch last year, you must sign up again for this year. Your local food service supervisor can answer questions for you as they arise.

When eligibility is determined by the application submitted, your household is notified either by email or in writing. In either an approval or disproval, it must be made in confidentiality. If your family does qualify, the director may ask if you would like them to share your information with other programs. In your application packet, there is a “Sharing Information with Other Programs” page. You can either opt-in or out-of this service.

Applying for free or reduced lunches for your children at this time of the year is not inappropriate. If you are struggling with your budget and could use the money that you are spending on cold lunch for other things, give this service a try. Your children will be fed and maybe a little more of your energy bill can be paid with the money you save on preparing lunches to go.

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