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MDE Announces USDA Income Guidelines for Free and Reduced Price Meals

August 29, 2017

JACKSON, Miss – The Mississippi Department of Education announces the United States Department of Agriculture income guidelines for free and reduced price meals served under the School Lunch, School Breakfast, After School Snack Program, and Food Distribution Programs.  Families with children in any of these facilities who are unable to pay the full price of the meals are encouraged to apply for benefits.


Meal applications and instructions for applying for meal benefits are sent home with each student during registration or on the first day of attendance.  To apply for the meal benefits, each household should fill out the application and return it to the school or institution.  Additional copies of the application are available at the administrative office of each facility.


For the school/institution officials to determine eligibility, the household must report income information or provide a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAPor TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) or FDPIR (Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations) case number.  If the child receives TANF payments or is a member of a SNAP household, or a member of a FDPIR household, the parent or guardian has to provide only the name of the child, SNAP or TANF or FDPIR case number, and sign the application in order for the child to receive free meals.  Homeless, migrant, or runaway youth are categorically eligible for free meals.   


Other applicants must report household income identified by source, such as earnings, welfare and alimony received by each household member.  In order for income applicants to be approved, the household must provide the following on the application:  the names of all household members, each household member’s monthly income identified by source, the signature of an adult household member certifying that the information provided is correct and the last four digits of the social security number of an adult who signs the application or an indication that this adult household member does not have a social security number.  The information provided by the household is confidential and will be used only for purposes of determining eligibility and verifying data.  The information provided may be verified at any time during the year by the school/institution or program officials.


Households are no longer required to report increases in household income of over $50 per month or $600 per year and decreases in household size.  However, if a household member becomes unemployed or if the household size increases, the household should contact the school/institution.  These changes may make the children of the household eligible for free or reduced price meals.  Households may apply for benefits at any time during the year as circumstances change.


In certain cases, foster children are also eligible for meal benefits.  If a household has foster children living with them and wish to apply for meal benefits for them, the household should contact the school/institution for more information.


Each school/institution has a copy of their approved free and reduced price meal policy.  The policy indicates who is responsible for determining eligibility.  The determining official is, in most instances, the principal, the food service administrator, or the program director.  Each school/school district/institution has an individual named as the hearing official.  Parents or guardians dissatisfied with the ruling of the determining official may discuss the decision with the determining official on an informal basis.  Parents wishing to make a formal appeal may make a request either orally or in writing to the hearing official.  The school/institution office or the superintendent’s office can provide you with the name, address, and phone number of the hearing official.


“In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.”


If you wish to file a Civil Rights program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, AD-3027 found online at, or at any USDA office, or call (866) 632-9992 to request the form. You may also write a letter containing all of the information requested in the form. Send your completed complaint form or letter to us by mail at U.S. Department of Agriculture, Director, Office of Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410, by fax (202) 690-7442 or email at


Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339 or (800) 845-6136 (in Spanish).


“USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.”


Children from households whose income is at or below the Income Eligibility Guidelines may be eligible for free or reduced price meals. The Income Eligibility Guidelines for reduced price meals are available here School Year 2017-2018

Media Contact: 
Patrice Guilfoyle, APR
Director of Communications

Jean Cook, APR
Communications Specialist