The Iowa Department of Education, Bureau of Nutrition and Health Services has announced its guidelines for free and reduced-price meals for students who can’t pay the full price of meals served under the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Special Milk Program and the Afterschool Care Snack Program.

State and local school officials have set the family size and income criteria for determining eligibility.

Households may be eligible for free or reduced-price meal benefits in one of these ways:

  1. Households whose income is at or below the levels shown are eligible for reduced price/free meals if they complete an application for free and reduced-price school meals/milk. Households may complete one application listing all children and return it to their children’s school.
  2. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households, students receiving benefits under the Family Investment Program (FIP) and students in some Medicaid programs are eligible for free/reduced price meals. Most students from SNAP and FIP households will qualify for free meals automatically. These households will receive a letter from their students’ schools letting them know about benefits. Households that receive a letter from the school don’t have to do anything for their student(s) to receive free or reduced-price meals. If a student was not listed on the notice of eligibility, the household should contact the school to receive free/reduced price meal benefits. Households must contact the school if they choose to decline meal benefits.
  3. Some SNAP and FIP households will receive a letter from the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which qualifies the children listed on the letter for free meals. Parents must take this letter to the student’s school to receive free meals.
  4. SNAP or FIP households receiving benefits who don’t receive a letter from DHHS must complete an application with the information indicated on the application and instructions for their students to receive free meals.

Free/discount meal eligibility from the previous year will continue within the same school for up to 30 working days into the new school year. When the carryover period ends, students must pay full price unless the household is notified that their students are directly certified or the household submits an application that is approved. Applications cannot be approved unless complete eligibility information is submitted and can be submitted at any time during the year. If a family member becomes unemployed, the household should contact the school to complete an application.

Foster children can receive free meal benefits. Some foster students are qualified for free meals automatically through the state direct certification process, and their host family will receive notice of these benefits. Families who receive this notification from the school don’t have to complete more paperwork for their foster students to receive free meals. If a family has foster students living with them, does not receive notification and wishes to apply for free meals, they should complete an application form. A foster student can be included as a member of the foster family if the foster family applies for benefits for other students. Including foster care students as household members may help other students in the household qualify for benefits. If the foster family is not eligible for free or reduced-price meal benefits, a foster student can still receive benefits. Special Supplement Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) participants may be eligible for free/reduced price meals. Households will be notified by the school of any child eligible for free meals if the children are enrolled in the Head Start/Even Start program or are considered homeless, migrant or runaway.

Formal appeals of application approvals/denials can be made orally or in writing to the school’s designated hearing official. The hearing procedure is outlined in the policy statement on file at each school. School leaders may verify the information in the application, and deliberate misrepresentation of information may lead to prosecution under applicable state and federal criminal statutes. Households should contact their local school for additional information. There will be no discrimination against individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) in the school meal programs.

To file a program discrimination complaint, complete a Form AD-3027, USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form which can be obtained online here, from any USDA office, by calling (866) 632-9992 or by writing a letter addressed to USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410.