State Superintendent encourages families to apply for free meals

School lunch generic (Pexels)

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia is expanding eligibility for free meals during the 2022-2023 school year through funding provided by the General Assembly in the state budget. Students with families at or below 185% of the federal poverty level are eligible for free meals. Previously, students from families with an income at or below 130% of the poverty level were eligible for free meals.

Emergency federal flexibility that allowed free meals for all students during the pandemic expired at the end of the 2021-2022 school year. Moving forward, many Virginia schools will now require applications and use family income to determine eligibility for free, reduced-price or paid meals.

“School meals are important sources of nutrition for students and help reduce food insecurity in the commonwealth,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said. “I urge all families to apply to determine if they qualify. Filling out an application is simple and takes less than 15 minutes.”

Students are automatically eligible for free meals if anyone in their household receives benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations or Medicaid. Schools will notify families if a child is automatically eligible.

More than 525,000 students qualified for free meals in Virginia when data was last collected in 2019. The new eligibility means approximately 64,500 more kids can access free meals.

Families can reach out to their local school nutrition department with questions related to the free meal application form


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Duke Carter returned to 10 News in January 2022.

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