Schools across Oregon provide critical nutrition to hundreds of thousands of students each year.

School meal eligibility has changed

During the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of students in Oregon and across the country received universal free meals at school. A variety of federal waivers meant every student could receive free breakfast and lunch during the pandemic.

These pandemic waivers have ended, however, a new Oregon law expanding school meals has come online. The changes in federal and state law will play out differently at different schools and for different families.

Over 300,000 Oregon kids are eligible for free or reduced-price meals through the School Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program, but less than half of eligible students participate.

Help spread the word encouraging families to apply for free school meals.

  1. Share this one-pager, “Why Parents Should Fill Out the School Meals Family Income Form“, available in Vietnamese, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Japanese, English and Russian.
  2. Check out this video on school meals for the 2022-23 school year and how to apply.
  3. Attend our free webinar, “Big Changes in Oregon School Meal Eligibility” on Wednesday, September 21, 1:00-2:00 pm to learn more. Register here.

Can My Children Get Free School Meals?

Your children can get free school meals in different ways. Some ways are automatic and will be described below, but they don’t apply to all families.

The most important thing you can do is fill out a form about family income that your children’s school should send home at the beginning of the school year called the “Oregon Confidential Household Application for Free and Reduced Price Meals.” Be sure to fill out that form and be sure your child returns it to the school. (You can also fill out a new form if your family income goes down.) If your child did not bring home this form and they are not already receiving free meals, ask your school for a copy of the form. You can also submit the form directly online in English or Spanish.

More Children Can Get Free Meals

In 2019, the Oregon Legislature passed a law dramatically increasing the number of children who qualify for free  school meals at public schools in Oregon, giving families the extra support they need for their student’s success. This law was delayed because of COVID but went into effect for the 2022-23 school year.

Which means, your children may now be able to get free school meals, even if they didn’t before the pandemic. Who is eligible for free meals depends on family income. Below shows the limits for the 2022-23 school year.

More Info about Applying

School Year 2022-2023 Income Eligibility Guidelines

If your household income is at or below the limits on the chart below, your children can receive free school meals if they attend a public school, a public charter and an Education Service District program. (Lower income levels apply to private schools.)

Immigration status is not considered when applying for free school meals. Free school meals is NOT a factor in a public charge test.


Receive other federal benefits

Children can receive free school meals if their households receive benefits, regardless of the amount, from:

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)

Other Eligibility Circumstances

Children may also receive free meals if:

  • They participate in Head Start or
  • Are in Foster Care

Finally, children can also be eligible if they:  

  • Are homeless or have runaway, or 
  • Are a migrant.

Your child’s school district will have a staff member who will help determine whether your child falls into any of these categories.

How to Apply

Families must submit a new application to receive Free and Reduced Price school meals every year, unless the school has already told you that your child is eligible for the new school year. Typically, it is the Head of Household that completes and signs the application. A household is a group of related or nonrelated individuals who are living as one economic unit. (This does not include boarding houses or institutions.)

We encourage you to apply. You can apply any time of the year, not just at the start of school. 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 received a denial earlier that school year.

STEP 1

You can submit an application in one of two ways:

Through your local School District: you should receive information on the Free and Reduced Price meal application at the beginning of the school year. If you have not received this information, contact your local school office to ask about the school meals application or visit their website. Paper applications are available from your school district in Chinese, Russian, Somali, Vietnamese, Spanish, and English.

OR

Through the Oregon Department of Education’s online application (available in English and Spanish)

Apply now

STEP 2

Your eligibility is determined. You should receive one or two Eligibility Notification Letters from your school or school district stating whether your student has been approved or denied for the Free and Reduced Price school meal benefit. You could receive:

  • A letter saying that children in your household are eligible for free federal meals.
  • You may receive a letter saying that you are not eligible for free federal meals. If you received such a letter, you’re also not eligible for the Oregon EIG program (but no second letter will be sent out)
  • If your children go to public schools, you could in fact receive TWO letters. You could receive one letter saying that your children are not eligible for free meals under the federal school meals program BUT you also get a second letter saying that your children will receive free meals under Oregon’s Expanded Income Eligibility (EIG) program.  

STEP 3

Your student can start accessing free school breakfast, lunch and afterschool snacks.

Families who don’t qualify to receive the Free and Reduced Price school meal benefit based on their income are still welcome and encouraged to buy school meals, and can pay for them by contacting their school.

Did you know, most schools offer several programs to ensure eligible children can access nutritional meals in school. Meal programs include:

The Oregon Department of Education administers these programs through the Child Nutrition Programs department, working with the nutrition staff of each individual school. Participation allows schools to receive reimbursement for each breakfast, lunch, supper or snack served. In return, schools serve nutritious meals that meet USDA standards.

In Oregon, all children who would qualify for reduced-price meals now receive them for free, thanks to additional state funding. To learn about additional advocacy areas related to school meals, visit our Hunger Free Schools page.

Have more questions about Free and Reduced Price meal eligibility? 

Contact ODE's Child School Nutrition Programs by Email: ODE School Nutrition or Phone: 503-947-5894. Or contact us (Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon) at: [email protected]