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

Over 300,000 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. Is your child missing out? Access to good, nutritious food is essential for your student to have energy, think clearly, and be able to focus on the tasks of the school day. It’s always worth checking if your family qualifies for free school breakfast and lunch.

Is my Student Eligible?

It is important that you fill out a Free and Reduced Price meal application for your child or children as many families qualify or may newly qualify if your income has changed at any point during the school year. Even if you are unsure of your eligibility the USDA reimburses schools for the cost of ALL meals at variable rates depending on eligibility, allowing the program to work for all students.

Below 300% federal poverty level

If your household income is below 300% of the Federal Poverty Level, your child is eligible for free school meals.

In 2019, the Oregon Legislature passed a law drastically increasing the number of families who qualify for free and reduced price school meals in Oregon, giving families the extra support they need for their student’s success.

Which means, your family may now be eligible for free school meals, even if you didn’t previously qualify! Here’s what you need to know:

With Oregon’s new Expanded Income Guidelines (EIG) , families with incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level are now eligible for free and reduced-price meals. Previously, families only that earned up to 185% of the federal poverty level qualified due to the federal income eligibility guidelines. 

More Info

School Year 2021- 2022 Income Eligibility Guidelines

Please note: If your household income is at or below the limits on the chart below, your child(ren) can receive free school meals through Oregon EIG.

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

All children in households receiving benefits, regardless of the amount, from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), will qualify for free school meals.


Other Eligibility Circumstances

Children participating in their school’s Head Start program are eligible for free school meals. Additionally, children who are in Foster Care or  meet the definition of homeless, runaway, or migrant are eligible for free school meals. A local school district will have a school liaison who will help determine when a child falls under this latter category.

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. The definition of household for the Free and Reduced Price meal application is a group that is one economic unit.

You can apply any time of the year, not just when you register at the start of school. If your household income changes during the year or if you are temporarily unemployed, your child or children may become eligible for Free and Reduced Price school meals, even if you received a denial earlier that school year. Because family eligibility changed from 185% FPL to 300% FPL due to recent legislation, we encourage your household to apply, even if your child(ren) weren’t previously eligible.

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 an Eligibility Notification Letter from your school or school district stating whether your student has been approved or denied for the Free and Reduced Price school meal benefit. It should be clear what the decision is and why your school or school district made the decision.


STEP 3

Your student can start accessing free school meals.

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.

For copies of the paper application(s) and for more information, particularly around the expanded income eligibility, please visit the Oregon Department of Education’s eligibility page.

How Does it Work?

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? 

View the Oregon Department of Education’s Frequently Asked Questions.

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