ISBE shares free, reduced price meal eligibility

The policy took effect on July 1.
Published: Aug. 31, 2020 at 9:52 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WIFR) - The Illinois State Board of Education announced the eligibility guidelines for students to receive free and reduced-price lunch, breakfast and after school snacks through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.

If families experience a change in income during the school year, they can reapply at any time for free or reduced-price meals by requesting a Household Eligibility Application from their child’s school.

“COVID-19 has changed the way schools serve meals to students across Illinois,” State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala said. “School nutrition programs will continue to ensure every student has access to meals each and every school day, whether students are learning in-person or remotely. I appreciate all the school nutrition professionals across the state for their creativity and dedication in keeping students safe, fed, and healthy.”

The policy took effect on July 1. The USDA sets the policy for each fiscal year to reflect any changes in the federal poverty guidelines. The National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program are funded by the USDA and administered by the ISBE.

The USDA extended several nationwide waivers through the end of the 2020-21 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These waivers give flexibility to school districts so they can provide meals to students with appropriate safety measures. The waivers allow for the establishment of grab-and-go meal sites, serving meals for multiple days at one time, delivery, and for parents and guardians to pick up meals on behalf of their students, according to the ISBE.


More information on waivers on distribution of meals can be found here. USDA’s Fiscal Year 2021 Income Eligibility Guidelines are also on the ISBE’s website.

Children from households that meet federal guidelines are eligible for free or reduced-price meal services. Families may complete one application per household for all children who attend the same school district.

All meals served must meet USDA meal requirements. However, a school can make substitutions prescribed by a doctor if a child has been determined by the doctor to have a disability that would prevent the child from eating the regular school meal. There will be no extra charge if a substitute meal is needed, according to the ISBE.

Letters, along with application forms, are being sent to parents or guardians. Households must complete the application as soon as possible, sign it, and return it to the school to apply for free or reduced-price meal services. Additional copies of the application form are available in the principal’s office in each school.

Households should answer all applicable questions on the form. An application that does not contain all the required information cannot be processed and approved by the school. WIC participants may be eligible for free and reduced-price meals, and are encouraged to complete an application for meal benefits, according to the ISBE.

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