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School Meal Program (Free/Reduced-Price School Breakfast & Lunch)
2009-2010 school year

The School Meal Program pays for all or part of the cost of breakfast and lunch for children at school. In addition, some child care programs are included.  By offering healthy and nutritious meals, the program also helps children to learn and grow.  The program is administered by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.


  1. What is the School Meal Program?
  2. Who can get free or reduced-price meals from the School Meal Program?
  3. Are there any asset limits for the School Meal Program?
  4. If I already get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or FDPIR commodity assistance or if I have a foster child, do I have to apply to get help?
  5. I get WIC. Can my child(ren) get free meals?
  6. How do I get an application?
  7. When can I apply?
  8. What is the application like?
  9. What else do I have to do to apply?
  10. What happens after I turn in the application?
  11. How long can I be on the School Meal Program until I have to apply again?
  12. If I don’t qualify now, may I apply again later?
  13. Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to get help from the School Meal Program?
  14. I am an immigrant. If I get help from the School Meal Program, am I a public charge?
  15. Can I get help paying for breakfast also?
  16. Does it matter how long I have lived in North Dakota to get help?
  17. Do all schools have the School Meal Program?
  18. Will other kids know that my child is getting a free or reduced-price meal?

1. What is the School Meal Program?

It is a program that pays for all or part of the cost of breakfast and lunch for children at school. In addition, some child care programs are included.  By offering healthy and nutritious meals, the program also helps children to learn and grow.  The program is administered by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

2. Who can get free or reduced-price meals from the School Meal Program?
Children attending public and private schools in grades pre-K-12. Most foster children can get free meals.  In addition, some child care programs are included.  If your family is getting help from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or FDPIR (Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations) you can get free meals. Otherwise, if you are not on these programs, your family has to have an income below the limits to get help. Some families can get free meals and others can get a reduced (lower) price on their meals. The most you will pay for a reduced-price lunch is 40 cents.

3. Are there any asset limits for the School Meal Program?
No. This program does not look at your assets to see if you can get help. (Assets are money in a checking or savings account or other things of value that you or your family own.)

4. If I already get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or FDPIR commodity assistance or if I have a foster child, do I have to apply to get help?
Maybe. If you are on these programs, you may get a letter in August that says you are already going to get free meals. If you don’t get a letter, or if the letter doesn’t cover all of your children, you will have to apply to get help or call the school to add the other children. If you get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or FDPIR, when you fill out the Application for Free and Reduced-Price Meals you only have to write in the names of your children and your case number(s) and sign your name. If you are applying for a foster child, you only have to write the child’s name and the amount of foster care money you receive, and sign your name. You have to fill out a separate application for each foster child.

5. I get WIC. Can my child(ren) get free meals?
Children in households participating in WIC may be eligible for reduced-price meals.  The school meal reduced-price income guidelines are the same as the WIC guidelines.

6. How do I get an application?
You can pick one up in the office at your child’s school. It may be mailed to your household during the summer with other school papers. It is called the Application for Free and Reduced-Price Meals. You can access the application by clicking on its name in the sentence above.

7. When can I apply?
You can apply at any time during the school year.  If you would like to apply in August before the first day of school, call your school to see if this is possible.  (Many schools open two weeks before classes start.)  Even if your child was enrolled before, you must fill out a new application each school year.

If your income goes down, or your household size goes up, you may be able to get help — even if you didn’t qualify for help before.

8. What is the application like?
It is two pages long. It will ask for the names of all the children and adults in your household and how much money they make each month. The adult who fills out the application also has to write his or her Social Security Number. If you don’t have a Social Security Number, you can say that and your family can still get help.

9. What else do I have to do to apply?
Just turn in your application in to the school office. A small group of people will be asked to show proof of their income. The school may also check to make sure the information you gave them is correct.

10. What happens after I turn in the application?
The school will send you a letter to let you know if you qualify for help. You will find out in about two weeks.

11. How long can I be on the School Meal Program until I have to apply again?
Once you are on the program, your child can get free or reduced-price meals all school year. The application covers 30 days into the next school year. You will have to apply again every year. If your income or household size changes during the year, you do not have to tell the school.

12. If I don’t qualify now, may I apply again later?
Yes, You may apply at any time during the school year if your household size goes up, income goes down, or if you start receiving Food Stamps, TANF, or commodity assistance.  If you lose your job, your children may be able to receive free or reduced price meals during the time you are unemployed.

13. Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to get help from the School Meal Program?
No. Even if you, your children, or other people living with you are not U.S. citizens, you can still get help.

14. I am an immigrant. If I get help from the School Meal Program, am I a public charge?
No. You are not a public charge if you use the School Meal Program. Schools cannot tell the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) if you get help.

15. Can I get help paying for breakfast also?
Some schools also have a breakfast program. If your child gets free or reduced-priced lunches, he or she will also get free breakfast if your school offers breakfast. You do not have to apply again for breakfast.

16. Does it matter how long I have lived in North Dakota to get help?
No.

17. Do all schools have the School Meal Program?
No, but most schools do. In addition, some child care programs are included. 

18. Will other kids know that my child is getting a free or reduced-price meal?
No. The school has to make sure no one can tell who is getting a free or reduced-price meal.