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Application FAQ

Free and Reduced Price Meal Frequently Asked Questions

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1.     What measures can I take to expedite my free and reduced-price application approval?

  • Apply online at
  • Print clearly.
  • Provide student’s complete name, date of birth, grade, and school.
  • If applicable, provide SNAP (food stamps) or TANF case number.
  • List all Household Members, income, and pay frequency. If there is no income, leave blank.
  • Provide last 4-digits of the adult’s  Social Security Number (SSN) or indicate you do not have one.
  •  Sign application

2.     Do I need to fill out a new application each year? Yes! Your child’s application is only good for that school year and for the first few days of the current school year. Only ONE application is required for all students in the household. Applications cannot be approved if incomplete, so be sure to fill out all required information. Approvals are based on income and household size.

3.     I am an ACPS student and 18+ years old, can I submit my own application? Regardless of student’s age, if the student resides in the home with a parent/legal guardian and are supported by them, the parent MUST complete and sign the application. If the student resides on his/her own and is solely responsible for themselves, only then can a student submit their own application.

4.     What if there is not enough space on the application to list everyone in the household? List any additional household members on a separate piece of paper and attach it to your application.

5.     Who can receive free or reduced meals?

  • Student(s) attending Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) schools;
  • Directly certified students;
  • Students whose Gross Household income falls within the limits of the Federal Income Guidelines.

6.     What does Direct Certified mean? How will I know if my child is directly certified?
Direct Certified are students automatically approved by the state due to your household receiving SNAP (food stamps), TANF, or Medicaid benefits OR the child has been identified as a Foster child. Direct Certification letters are mailed and/or emailed. If the letter you received does not have all your children listed, please contact us.     

7.     Can homeless, runaway, and migrant children get free meals?
Yes. Children who meet the definition of “migrant, homeless, or runaway” should contact their school counselor or the ACPS Homeless/Foster Liaison.


8.     I received a letter saying my children were approved for meal benefits for this school year. Should I fill out an application?
If you received a letter for the current school year, then NO, you do not need to fill out a new application. Please carefully read the letter to ensure it has the current school year.

9.     I receive WIC and/or Medicaid benefits. Can my child get free meals?

Children in households participating in WIC or receiving Medicaid may be eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Please complete and return an application so eligibility can be determined.

10.   May I apply if someone in my household is not a U.S. citizen?
Yes! School meals are available to all children enrolled in school. You, your children, or other household members do not have to be U.S. citizens to apply for free or reduced-price meals.

11.   Who should I include as members of my household?
Include yourself, all children, and any other people living in your household, related or not (such as grandparents, other relatives, or friends) who share income and expenses. If you live with other people who are economically independent (for example, roommates or people who you do not support), DO NOT include them on your application.

12.   If I have a student living at home that goes to a private school, charter school, head start program, or college, should I include them on the application?
Yes, you will include their information as they are part of the household.


13.   What income do I include?
Gross income and how often you receive this income; weekly (W), every two weeks (E), twice per month (T), monthly (M), or annually/yearly (A) must be listed from all jobs. If you do not receive any income, leave blank or write -0-. Gross income is not the same as take-home pay. Gross income is the amount earned before taxes and deductions. Do not provide your hourly rate! If you are self-employed, report net income found on your Business Profit/Loss Statement.

14.   What if my income is not always the same? Provide the steady amount of income you receive BEFORE deductions. For example, if you normally receive $1,000 each month, but you missed some work last month and only received $900, put down that you get $1,000 per month as this is your normal income. If you are paid for overtime, include it, but not if you receive it occasionally.  

15.   We are in the military. How do we report our income? Basic pay and cash bonuses must be reported as income. Cash value allowances for off-base housing, food, or clothing must also be included as income. However, if your housing is part of the Military Housing Privatization Initiative, do not include your housing allowance as income. Any additional combat pay resulting from deployment is also excluded from income.

16.   Why do I need to supply the last 4-digits of my Social Security number (SSN) and sign the application? Federal guidelines require this information. Provide the last 4-digits of the SSN for the adult household member who signs the application or mark the box indicating ‘none’ meaning you do not have one. Unsigned applications are returned to the household.

17.   When will my student’s application be approved?
Please allow ten (10) school days for the application to be processed. There is a 30-day grace period of meal benefits for students approved during the prior school year, however, if a new application is processed and then denied, the new status will take effect immediately and will override the 30-day grace period.

18.   Will the information I give be checked?
Yes, we may ask you to send proof of the information you provide (e.g., pay stubs, a letter from employer, etc). Proof of income can be requested at any time throughout the school year.

19.   If I do not qualify now, may I apply later?
Yes, you may apply at any time during the school year. For example, children with a parent or guardian who becomes unemployed may become eligible for free and reduced-price meals if the household income drops below the Federal income limit. 


20.   What if I disagree with the school’s decision about my application?
If you do not agree with the decision regarding your application or the result of verification, you may discuss it with the School Nutrition Services department. You also have the right to a fair hearing. A fair hearing may be requested by calling or writing to Dr. Alicia Hart, Chief of Facilities and Operations, 1340 Braddock Road, Alexandria, VA 22314; 703-619-8097.

21.   My child qualifies for meal benefits but was charged for a meal. Why did this occur?

There are one of two reasons why your child was charged

  • Student did not obtain a complete meal. The basic formula requires that five meal components are offered—milk, fruit, vegetable, meat (or an approved meat alternate like beans, yogurt or cheese), and grain. Students must choose three full portions of the five, with at least one choice being a fruit or vegetable so if a component is missing the student will be charged.
  • Student may no longer be qualified. Please ensure a current year’s application has been submitted and check to see if it has been approved.


22.   How do I pay for my student’s meals? Students new to ACPS will need money until an application is processed and approved. Parents can add money to their child(ren)’s account by using our online payment system, SchoolCafé: Cash or checks are also accepted.

23.   What happens if my student's lunch account runs out of money and begins to accrue meal debt? Under Virginia Law, every student has to be offered a meal regardless of their ability to pay. Students that choose to participate in the school meal program will be charged accordingly for each meal served. A la carte items such as snacks are not allowed to be charged. Charges will continually accrue on your child’s account if a student has no funds and continues to receive meals. Parents are liable for these charges and can make incremental payments until the balance is paid off. Meal debt balances will be communicated to households via automated phone call, text, email or standard mail. If you have concerns about your child's lunch account, please contact the School Nutrition Office.


24.   My family needs more help. Are there other programs we might apply for? To find out how to apply for SNAP, TANF, and medical assistance programs or other assistance benefits, contact the City of Alexandria Department of Community & Human Services at (703) 746-5700 M-F from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm or visit Your school counselor might also be able to direct you to services you may qualify for.

Breakfast / Lunch Prices


Grade Level


Approved for Free and Reduced-Price Benefits (Breakfast and Lunch)









Elementary Lunch



Secondary Lunch






Adult Breakfast


A la carte

Adult Lunch









One milk accompanies each complete meal served.