What changes have taken place?

There was a big change for school meals two years ago, but as emergency aid is rolled back and the 2022-23 school year begins, Oregonians find ourselves facing big change once again. 

The pandemic-era federal waiver program that gave every school child free school meals regardless of income ended on June 30 of 2022. This left a lot of parents and guardians wondering what comes next and what they qualify for. Whether you’re new to school meals, new to the state of Oregon, or simply need a refresher, read on to learn more about free school meals and who qualifies for them. 

Because the federal waiver program was universal, all children were included automatically and no one had to apply. Unfortunately, the funding for these waivers expired on June 30 of 2022, putting an end to universal free school meals throughout the country.

But this doesn’t automatically mean your child can no longer receive free school meals. Some school districts in low-income areas will continue to provide universal free meals to all students. In other districts, parents will need to fill out an application so the state can determine their eligibility for free or reduced-price school meals.

How do I know if my child qualifies?

If you need to apply for free or reduced-price meals, your child’s school should have already sent you a form called the “Oregon Confidential Household Application for Free and Reduced Price Meals.” If you did not receive this form in your welcome packet, you can ask for a new application from the school or apply online here (in English or Spanish).

Even if you don’t know whether or not you qualify, you should still fill out an application and make sure your child returns it to the school. Now that federal waivers have expired, the Hunger Free Schools provisions of the 2019 Student Success Act have gone into effect. This law expands eligibility for free school meals above the federal level, allowing a greater number of children in Oregon to access free or reduced price school lunches than had access before the pandemic. 

While the federal program applies to children with family incomes 185% above the federal poverty line, Oregon now provides free school meals to children with family incomes 300% above the poverty line. This means that a child from a family of four with an annual income of $83,250 would qualify for free school meals in Oregon, even if they would not in a neighboring state.

It’s also important to remember that you can apply at any time throughout the school year. If your household income goes down during the year or if you are temporarily unemployed, your children may become eligible for free school meals, even if you didn’t qualify before.

Where can I learn more about free school meals eligibility?

You can learn more about Free School Meals eligibility and how to apply here

Hunger-Free Oregon is also hosting a free webinar on Wednesday, September, 21, at 1:00-2:00 pm. We’ll talk about what is changing in free school meal eligibility and what you can do to ensure eligible families receive free school meals. A staff member from the Oregon Department of Education will be available to respond to community questions about free school meal eligibility.

Come to this webinar if:

  • You have questions about who should apply for free school meals and how to apply
  • You have a role in your local community or school encouraging families and students to access meals at school
  • You are seeking informational materials and tools to share with communities about free school meals 

Registration is limited – RSVP today

More Community Resources

Check out our informational one-pager, “Why Parents Should Fill Out the School Meals Family Income Form“, available in: VietnameseSpanishSimplified ChineseTraditional ChineseKoreanArabicJapaneseEnglish and Russian.