Washington public schools play a vital role in children’s health by providing free and reduced-price meals to students in need. The following U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition programs are administered by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI): National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program and Special Milk Program.
The application process for participation in school meal programs is simple and confidential. Application packets are sent to all households with students at the beginning of the school year. Households with income levels below certain thresholds (see the tables below) are encouraged to apply for any or all of the programs listed above. The application packet provides instructions and directions on where the application should be sent. Applications will be reviewed and a determination made within 10 working days of receipt of the application. Households denied eligibility can appeal the decision by contacting their school.
Applications can be submitted any time during the school year. Households that experience a change in income due to job loss or other circumstances are encouraged to apply.
Students receiving help through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the Basic Food Program– as well as all other students in the same household – automatically qualify for free meals. The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) provides OSPI with a list of children who receive these services to facilitate automatic eligibility. Households notified of their children’s eligibility must contact the school if it chooses to decline the free meal benefits.