Breakfast and Lunch Program Applications in Virginia

A free school lunch application in Virginia may be requested, completed and submitted to the appropriate school or district officials at any time during an academic year. Families of schoolchildren may receive assistance in applying for free school meals from government agencies, schools or partnering community and faith-based organizations from which they are already receiving services. Virginia residents are more likely to achieve high levels of success by utilizing all available resources. As a result, government agencies providing direct assistance to needy families often work with schools to identify families potentially eligible for federal child nutrition program benefits and coordinate efforts to assist those families in applying for all programs for which they qualify. A National School Lunch Program application does not necessarily have to be submitted by all families who qualify for and wish to receive benefits. Although application rules and procedures may vary between schools, categorically eligible students and families are often permitted to provide documentation of enrollment in qualifying federal assistance programs in place of completing an application for federal child nutrition program benefits.

Virginia Direct Certification

Applying for free school meals in Virginia may be unnecessary for students considered categorically eligible, or Direct Certified, for federal meal program benefits. A National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program application is typically given to every student at the beginning of the school year. However, a categorical-eligible household may enroll in free school meals when applying for other food-assistance programs in VA, even if in the middle of the academic calendar. Direct Certification is granted to students and families enrolled in qualifying state and federal-level assistance programs, students bearing certain legal designations and children in the foster care system or under the jurisdiction of the court system. Parents or guardians of Direct-Certified students concerned about how to apply for Summer Food Service Program benefits should be advised that all SFSP sites are mandated to provide free meals to any children 18 years of age or younger qualifying for the SBP and NSLP during the academic year. In some circumstances, youth 18 years of age and older may also qualify for SFSP benefits.

Find out more about enrolling in multiple food-assistance programs in Virginia simultaneously by downloading our comprehensive guide.

Applications for Federal Child Nutrition Programs in Virginia

Free school lunch applications are provided to all students and households by public, charter and not-for-profit private schools in Virginia at the start of every academic year. Some districts may provide families with an online SBP and NSLP application option at their discretion and ability, which will request the same information needed for the paper school meal application. All online school lunch applications must meet strict federal information safety and accessibility guidelines. Families applying for free school meals may request new or additional applications at any time throughout the academic year from their child’s school or the local school district.

National School Lunch Program applications only need to be completed and submitted once per year per household. Each petitioning family will complete one NSLP and SBP application for all children in the household. However, additional school meal applications may be needed if children in the same household attend different schools. It is crucial that these applications be filled out carefully and thoroughly to prevent delays, denials and possible future loss of benefits due to error or intentional or unintentional falsification of information. Families that experience significant changes in household composition, income or legal status or have changed their enrollment status in another qualifying federal assistance program during the academic year should contact their child’s school or district for guidance. Families may be required to update their information on file with the district to continue to meet the eligibility requirements for program benefits.

Each National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program application requires the head of household to provide basic personal and financial information about themselves and other members of the households. When applying for free school meals, families can expect to answer questions related to household size, composition and income. Included under income-related questions will be inquiries about special Direct Certification conditions, such as the presence of foster children in the household or receipt of benefits under SNAP and other qualifying programs. Families applying for free school meals are expected to demonstrate income eligibility by supplying information about a variety of different types of potential income and other available resources. Failure to fill out the income portion of the application carefully and correctly can result in future investigations and potential loss of benefits. Free school lunch applications will come with thorough instructions as well as contact information for individuals available to assist families in accurately completely all portions of the application if needed.

Learn more about the income limits to qualify for free or reduced-price school meals by downloading our in-depth guide.

Approval for Federal Child Nutrition Programs in Virginia

Families may apply for free school meals on a rolling basis. National School Lunch Program applications will be provided, accepted and evaluated by designated school or district officials at any time during the academic year. Qualifying students can begin receiving benefits as soon as their applications are approved. Applications should be submitted directly to a child’s school or the appointed school district official. If a family’s National School Lunch Program application is approved, then the school or district will provide written notification with directions on receiving benefits. Families may also receive invitations to apply for other programs for which they may also be eligible, based on the information provided on their applications. Families’ personal and income information will not be shared without their permission. Students’ eligibility for access to federal student nutrition program benefits will not be influenced by families’ decisions to accept or refuse referral to additional assistance programs for which they may qualify.

Virginia Department of Social Services