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Press Release: New Guidelines Announced For Free and Reduced-Price School Meals

UDSA Announces Adjustments to Income Eligibility Guidelines

For Immediate Release                      Contact: William Reinhard, 410-767-0486 
                                                                          Carol Fettweis, 410-767-0207

Baltimore, MD (June 18, 2014)

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has announced revised Income Eligibility Guidelines for free and reduced-price school meals. The guidelines are set by the federal government and adopted by MSDE. They are used to determine eligibility for free or reduced-price meals in the child nutrition programs for the period July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) annual adjustments to the Income Eligibility Guidelines (IEG) are required by Section 9 of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. The guidelines are intended to directly benefit those children most in need. They are revised annually to account for changes in the Consumer Price Index. The free and reduced guidelines were obtained by multiplying the 2014 federal income poverty guidelines by 130 percent and 185 percent, respectively, and by rounding the result upward to the next whole dollar.

Household size and income is the most common way to determine eligibility. For example, a child from a family of four is eligible for free school meals if the household’s current annual income is below $31,005. If the family’s annual income is between $31,005 and $44,123 the child is eligible for reduced-price meals.

Meal Benefit Applications will be sent home from school at the beginning of the school year. U.S. citizenship is not required to be eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Parents/Guardians should fill out the application completely and send it back to the school. Schools cannot approve incomplete applications.

The school will inform households whether their children qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Households may speak with school officials if they disagree with the school’s decision or they may appeal the decision and request a fair hearing.

Children enrolled in a Head Start program, children certified as homeless, migrant, or runaway, foster children, and children living in households that receive Food Supplement Program (FSP–formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) or Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) benefits are eligible for free meals and do not need to fill out an application. Some FSP and TCA households will receive a letter from the school informing them that their children are eligible for free meals. FSP and TCA households that do not receive a letter by the beginning of the school year should fill out an application. Other children that may be eligible for free or reduced-price meals include children in households participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Parents/Guardians of these children should complete an application.

Parents/guardians may reapply at any time during the school year and are encouraged to do so if their household size goes up, they become unemployed, their income goes down, or their household qualifies for FSP or TCA.

School Meals include:  School Breakfast Program, National School Lunch Program, After-School Care Snack component, and Special Milk Program. Meals served must meet nutrition requirements set by the USDA. The School Meals programs are administered in Maryland by MSDE and by the USDA on a federal level. Visit the MSDE web site at for information regarding the Child Nutrition Programs operating in Maryland.

Individuals who want more information concerning schools or facilities that participate in one of the Child Nutrition Programs should call 410-767-0214.

Income Eligibility Guidelines
(Effective July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015)

Household Size

Free Meals

Reduced-Price Meals
































































For each additional family member add . . .







The U.S Department of Agriculture prohibits discrimination against its customers, employees, and applicants for employment on the bases of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, gender identity, religion, reprisal, and where applicable, political beliefs, marital status, familial or parental status, sexual orientation, or all or part of an individual's income is derived from any public assistance program, or protected genetic information in employment or in any program or activity conducted or funded by the Department. (Not all prohibited bases will apply to all programs and/or employment activities.)

If you wish to file a Civil Rights program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, found 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 Adjudication, 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 (Spanish). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

The Maryland State Department of Education does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, age, national origin, religion, disability, or sexual orientation in matters affecting employment or in providing access to programs and activities and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups. For inquiries related to departmental policy, please contact the Equity Assurance and Compliance Office, 410-767-0433 (voice) 410-333-6442 (TTY/TDD). 

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