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Feeding brains, bodies: the free and reduced-price meal program

The City School District of Albany offers a healthy breakfast and lunch every day to help assure that kids can fill their brains without being distracted by empty stomachs. Breakfast costs $1.50 at all schools. Lunch is $2.25 for elementary students and $2.50 at the middle schools and high school.


However, your child can receive breakfast and lunch free, or for as little as 25 cents for each meal if your family is eligible for the free and reduced-price meal program.


Families that receive SNAP or Aid to Dependent Children (ADC/TANF) qualify. Your family may qualify as well, and we encourage you to apply.


2013-14 applications for free and reduced-price meals now available

Applications for free and reduced-price meals during the 2013-14 school year can be downloaded by clicking either link below. The applications are available in English and Spanish. The application deadline is Oct. 21.

Even if your child received free or reduced-priced meals during the last school year, you must submit a new application to the district before Oct. 21 to continue this program for the upcoming school year.


What is the free and reduced-price meal program?

This federal program reimburses the district for the cost of a school breakfast and lunch for eligible children. In exchange, the district provides free or low-cost meals that meet federal nutrition requirements.


Is your family eligible for free or reduced-price meals?

If your total household income is the same or less than the amounts in the chart below, your children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. 


Family size




Twice a month

Every two weeks



$ 21,257

$ 1,772

$ 886

$ 818

$ 409


$ 28,694

$ 2,392

$ 1,196

$ 1,104

$ 552


$ 36,131

$ 3,011

$ 1,506

$ 1,390

$ 695


$ 43,568

$ 3,631

$ 1,816

$ 1,676

$ 838


$ 51,005

$ 4,251

$ 2,126

$ 1,962

$ 981


$ 58,442

$ 4,871

$ 2,436

$ 2,248

$ 1,124


$ 65,879

$ 5,490

$ 2,745

$ 2,534

$ 1,267


$ 73,316

$ 6,110

$ 3,055

$ 2,820

$ 1,410

Add for each additional family member

$ 7,437

$ 620

$ 310

$ 287

$ 144


Easy steps to apply
To get free or reduced-price meals for your children, do one of the following:

  • Submit an Eligibility Letter for Free Meals from the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (this letter used to be called a Direct Certification Letter); OR

  • Carefully complete the application from the link above and follow these steps:
    1. List all students in your household
    2. List all adults and their income and/or Social Services information
    3. An adult must sign the application and note his/her social security number

Return either form to:

Food Service Department

Arbor Hill Elementary School

1 Arbor Drive

Albany, NY 12207


Students without an approved application as of Oct. 21 will have to pay full price for their meals.

The ABCs of the free and reduced-price meal program

Q: Do I need to fill out an application for each child?

No. You can use one application for all students in your household. We cannot approve an application that is not complete, so be sure to fill out all required information.


Q: Who can get free meals?

All children in households receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) can get free meals regardless of income.


Also, your children can get free meals if your household’s gross income is within the free limits on the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines. An application in both English and Spanish is stapled to the inside of this newsletter.


Q: Can foster children get free meals?

Yes, foster children that are under the legal responsibility of a foster care agency or court are eligible for free meals. Any foster child in the household is eligible for free meals regardless of income.


Q: Can homeless, runaway and migrant children get free meals?

Yes, children who meet the definition of homeless, runaway or migrant qualify for free meals.  If you haven’t been told your children will get free meals, please call or e-mail the school, homeless liaison or migrant coordinator to see if they qualify. 


Q: Who can get reduced-price meals?

Your children can get low-cost meals if your household income is within the reduced-price limits on the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines (see chart above).


Q: Should I fill out an application if I received a letter from school saying my children are approved for free meals?

Please carefully read the letter you received and follow the instructions. Call the Food Services Department at 475-6645 if you have questions.  


Q: My child’s application was approved last year. Do I need to fill out another one?

Yes. Your child’s application is only good for that school year and the first weeks of this school year. You must send in a new application before Oct. 21 unless the school told you that your child is eligible for the new school year. 


Q: I get WIC. Can my child or children get free meals?

Children in households participating in WIC may be eligible for free or reduced-price meals.  Please fill out the application stapled to the inside of this newsletter.


Q: Will the information I give be checked?

Yes, and we also may ask you to send written proof.


Q: If I don’t 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 income limit.


Q: What if I disagree with the school’s decision about my application?

You should talk to school officials. You also may ask for a hearing by calling or writing to: Assistant Superintendent of Business, City School District of Albany, 1 Academy Park, Albany, NY 12207. You also can call 518-475-6020.


Q: May I apply if someone in my household is not a United States citizen?

Yes. You or your child does not have to be a U.S. citizen to qualify for free or reduced-price meals.


Q: Who should I include as members of my household?

You must include all people living in your household, related or not (such as grandparents, other relatives or friends) who share income and expenses. You must include yourself and all children living with you. If you live with other people who are economically independent (for example, people who you do not support, who do not share income with you or your children, or who pay a share of expenses), do not include them.


Q: What if my income is not always the same?

List the amount that you normally receive. For example, if you normally make $1,000 each month, but you missed some work last month and only made $900, put down that you made $1,000 per month. If you normally get overtime, include it, but do not include it if you only work overtime sometimes. If you have lost a job or had your hours or wages reduced, use your current income.


Q: We are in the military. Do we include our housing allowance as income?

If you get an off-base housing allowance, it must be included as income. However, if your housing is part of the Military Housing Privatization Initiative, do not include your housing allowance as income.


Q: My spouse is deployed to a combat zone. Is combat pay counted as income?

No, if the combat pay is received in addition to basic pay because of deployment and it wasn’t received before deployment, combat pay is not counted as income. Call 475-6645 if you need more information.


Q: My family needs more help. Are there other programs we might apply for?

To find out how to apply for SNAP or other assistance benefits, contact your local assistance office or call 1-800-342-3009.





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