Attention EBT Cardholders

A small number of Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cardholders may be experiencing issues using their EBT cards. OTDA is aware of the issue and is continuing to work closely with our EBT vendor to resolve it as quickly as possible. Those affected should contact their local department of social services about getting a temporary replacement card.

Last updated: May 23, 2024, 3:15 PM

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 or full priced breakfast and lunch at participating schools throughout New York State. In New York State the New York State Department of Education administers these programs, and local schools operate the programs. 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.

Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a meal service option for local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools in high-poverty areas. CEP may be implemented in individual schools, groups of schools, or entire school districts. CEP allows participating schools to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled students without the burden of collecting household applications. CEP streamlines student eligibility and participation, creating more opportunities for students to receive nutrition necessary to optimize academic performance.

Thousands of schools implementing the School Breakfast and School Lunch Programs in New York state are participating in CEP, providing access to breakfast and lunch meals to all students at no charge each school day. If your child attends a school participating in CEP, there is no further documentation or action needed. Please note that schools participating in CEP may ask families for household income data to support other local, state and federal funding to the school.

For schools not participating in the CEP, some children qualify for free or reduced meals, and others pay for meals, depending on family size and income. The chart below represents the income level for the different meal categories for a family of four.

Meal Categories Eligibility
Free Income up to 130% of poverty ($39,000 for a family of 4 annually)
Reduced (no charge to student) Income up to 185% of poverty ($55,500 for a family of 4 annually)
Full price* - paid by family Income over 185% of poverty ($55,500 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 or reduced-price student or discriminated against in any way. Full-price students must either pre-pay for meals or pay for the meal at the time of service.

How to Apply:

Families fill out free and reduced-price meal applications at the beginning of the school year or are notified by the school that their child has been identified through a Direct Certification Matching Process (DCMP) as free eligible based on SNAP or Medicaid, if applicable.

When completing a free and reduced-price meal application, 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 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, full price). Applications are kept confidential and may be submitted at any time during the school year.

For more information on how to apply for free or reduced-price meal benefits, contact your school.

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