School Breakfast and Lunch Programs

OTDA Home Resources for Working Families Nutrition Programs School Breakfast and Lunch Programs

School Breakfast and Lunch Programs

The School Breakfast and Lunch Programs are federal programs providing free, reduced-price or full-priced breakfast and lunch at participating schools throughout New York State. In New York State the New York Department of Education administers the programs, and local school food authorities operate the programs in schools. The meals are the same for all children regardless of payment category, and schools are not permitted to identify students who get free or reduced-price meals.

All children attending schools that offer these programs can participate. Some children qualify for free/reduced price meals, and others pay for meals, depending on family size and income. The chart below presents the income level for the different meal categories.

Meal Categories Eligibility
Free meals Income up to 130% of poverty ($31,590 for a family of 4 annually)
Reduced Price ($.25*) paid by family Income up to 185% of poverty ($44,955 for a family of 4 annually)
Full price* paid by family Income over 185% of poverty ($44,955 for a family of 4 annually)

*varies by school district NOTE: Income levels change annually; this is just a guide.


Children participating in these programs may be given numbers, tickets, or swipe cards, may prepay for meals, or may simply pay at the register. The meals are the same for all children, and no child may be identified as a free/reduced price student, or discriminated against in any way. Paying students (reduced price and full price) must either pre-pay for meals or pay for the meal at the time of service.

How to Apply:

Families fill out applications at the beginning of the school year. Information about family size, income and sources of income are required. Families receiving TANF and/or SNAP benefits do not have to fill out an application if they submit to the school a direct certification letter provided by the State or Local Department of Social Services. SNAP and/or TANF recipients may also complete an application for free and reduced price meals which only requires them to provide the case number, the names of the children and an adult household signature. Based on documentation supplied by the family, the school notifies the family as to the child’s eligibility status (free, reduced price, full-price). Applications are kept confidential and may be submitted at any time during the school year.

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