Free & Reduced Meals: What’s Changed This Year

Free & Reduced Meals: What's Changed This Year

Some important changes are coming this school year when applying for free and reduced meals for students. The federal waiver that made school lunches free to all children expired at the end of June. That makes this the first school year since the pandemic that parents need to fill out an application for free and reduced meals. Getting ready to go back to school is stressful enough without having to search for where and how to apply. Here are some tips that may be helpful.

You may not need to apply to get free or reduced-price meals.

Your child’s school may participate in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). The CEP allows all students at that school to continue to eat breakfast and lunch for free, regardless of income. If you would like to find out if your child attends a CEP school, check out this list of CEP schools from the South Carolina Department of Education. Many schools have their CEP eligibility on their website. If you are unsure, there should be information in your child’s back-to-school packet.

Your child may not need to fill out an application for school meals if enrolled in Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Being part of these programs will automatically enroll them in the free and reduced meal program.

If you do need to apply, you can go through your school district’s website.

School districts have a link to apply for free and reduced lunches on their website. Many school districts will also have applications available at school registration if you would prefer to fill it out when you sign-up your child for school. Many also have another option to print out the forms yourself, fill them out, then bring them to the office at the school your child attends. To access your child’s school website, you can find your district website through the South Carolina Department of Education.

You can apply for food assistance and other resources by calling SC Thrive.

SC Thrive is here to help you navigate all the resources available to you. If you are experiencing food insecurity, you need cash assistance, or you are searching for healthcare coverage, call SC Thrive at 800.726.8774. Our Contact Center can help you apply for different programs or answer questions you have about what resources are available.