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Eligible Families Encouraged to Apply for Free and Reduced-Price Meal Programs

OLYMPIA — September 21, 2017 — Washington public schools play a vital role in children’s health by providing free and reduced-price meals to students in need. The following U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrition programs are administered by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI): National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program and Special Milk Program.

The application process for participation in school meal programs is simple and confidential. Application packets are sent to all households with students at the beginning of the school year. Households with income levels below certain thresholds (see the tables below) are encouraged to apply for any or all of the programs listed above. The application packet provides instructions and directions on where the application should be sent.

Applications will be reviewed and a determination made within 10 operating days of receipt of the application. Households denied eligibility can appeal the decision by contacting their school.

Applications can be submitted any time during the school year. Households that experience a change in income due to job loss or other circumstances are encouraged to apply.

Students receiving help through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the Basic Food Program – as well as all other students in the same household – automatically qualify for free meals. The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) provides OSPI with a list of children who receive these services to facilitate automatic eligibility. Households notified of their children’s eligibility must contact the school if it chooses to decline the free meal benefits.

Foster children are eligible for free meal benefits. Children placed in foster care by DSHS are also included in the list provided to OSPI. In households where foster children reside, all other students in the household may be eligible for free or reduced price meals based on household size and income. In these situations, households may submit an application.

Homeless and migrant students, households taking part in Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations and students in Head Start and Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program are eligible for free meals. Contact your child’s school for more information.

Eligibility lasts from the date of approval up to the first 30 operating days of the next school year or until a family contacts the school or district.

Households needing assistance with application materials in languages other than English should contact their school.

The income eligibility guidelines listed below are used to determine the eligibility of children to receive free or reduced-price meals or free milk. Washington state legislation pays the cost of lunch for public school students eligible for reduced-price meals in grades K‒3 and the cost of breakfast for public school students eligible for reduced-price meals in grades K-12.

USDA Child Nutrition Program Income Guidelines

July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018




* For each additional household member, add this amount

If you have questions about eligibility, contact your child’s school.

Schools with fewer than 25 percent of the enrolled K-4 students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals are not by state law required to operate the National School Lunch Program. In addition, schools with fewer than 40 percent or less of enrolled students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals are by state law not required to operate the school breakfast program.

For more information

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, etc.), 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 Form, (AD-3027) found online at:, 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: mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410; fax: (202) 690-7442; or email:

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.


About OSPI
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K–12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Chris Reykdal, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and improve student achievement on behalf of more than one million public school students.

OSPI provides equal access to all programs and services without discrimination based on sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. Questions and complaints of alleged discrimination should be directed to the Equity and Civil Rights Director at (360) 725-6162 or P.O. Box 47200, Olympia, WA 98504-7200.

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Nathan Olson
Communications Manager
(360) 725-6015 |

The OSPI Communications Office serves as the central point of contact for local, regional and national media covering K-12 education issues.

Communications Manager
Nathan Olson
(360) 725-6015


   Updated 9/21/2017

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