Nashville, TN – The Tennessee Department of Education today announced the 2011-2012 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) policy for free and reduced price meals for children in Tennessee’s schools. The USDA’s school meals programs help ensure all students have access to nutritious meals.
“We know that eating habits play an importing role in fueling student learning, performance and health,” Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said. “Promoting and supporting healthy eating through school meals ensures that our students have the energy they need to achieve, grow, and succeed in the classroom.”
Basic facts about free and reduced price meals:
Do you need to fill out an application for each of your children? No, you only need one application for all students in your household.
Who can get free meals? All children in households receiving benefits from SNAP or Families First can get free meals regardless of your income. Also, your children can get free meals if your household’s gross income is within the free limits on the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines.
Can foster children get free meals? Yes, foster children that are under the legal responsibility of a foster care agency or court, are eligible for free meals. Any foster child in the household is eligible for free meals regardless of income.
Can homeless, runaway and migrant children get free meals? Yes, children who meet the definition of homeless, runaway, or migrant qualify for free meals. Check with your school, the homeless liaison or migrant coordinator for more information and to see if your children qualify.
Who can get reduced meals? Your children can get low cost meals if your household is within the reduced price limits on the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines.
Should you fill out an application if you get a letter this school year saying your children are approved for free or reduced price meals? Read the letter carefully and follow the instructions, or call your local School Nutrition Program Director.
My child’s application was approved last year. Do you need to fill out another one? Yes. Your child’s application is only good for that school year and for the first few days of this school year. You must send in a new application unless the school told you that your child is eligible for the new school year.
If you get WIC, can your children get free meals? Your children may be eligible for free or reduced price meals, but you will need to fill out an application.
Will the information you give be checked? Yes, and you may also be asked to send written proof.
What if you disagree with the school’s decision about your application? You should talk to school officials, or you may also ask for a hearing by calling or writing the school officials.
May you apply if someone in your household is not a U. S. citizen? Yes. You or your children do not have to be U. S. citizens to qualify for free or reduced price meals.
Who should you include as members of your household? You must include all people living in your household, related or not (such as grandparents, other relatives, or friends) who share income and expenses. You must include yourself and all children who live with you. If you live with other people who are economically independent, do not include them.
What if your income is not always the same? You must list the amount that you normally receive. If you normally get overtime, include it. But if you do not normally get it, do not include it. If you have lost a job or had your hours or wages reduced, use your current income.
If you are in the military, do you include your housing allowance as income? If you get an off-base housing allowance, you must include it as income. If your housing is part of the Military Housing Privatization Initiative, do not include your housing allowance as income.
If my spouse is deployed to a combat zone, is the combat pay counted as income? No, if the combat pay is received in addition to the basic pay because of deployment and it was not received before the deployment, combat pay is not counted as income.
If I need more help, whom should I contact? For more information on applying for SNAP, or other assistance benefits, visit https://fabenefits.dhs.tn.gov/vip/website/signupservlet?pagename=homepage or call the toll free hotline at 866-311-4287.
The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
For information on the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines see: WIC Income Eligibility Guidelines 2011-2012