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Free & Reduced-Price Lunch Program

The USDA has extended free breakfast and lunch to all CPS students for the 2021-22 school year.

    The federal Free and Reduced-Price Lunch program provides nutritious meals for children from low-income families.

    Community Eligibility for Federal Meal Program

    A majority of Cincinnati Public Schools qualify for Community Eligibility (CE), which means all students at the schools receive free meals.

    List of CE schools

    What is CE Community Eligibility?
    Community Eligiblity allows school districts in high-poverty areas to provide meals free to students in schools that qualify.

    How are schools selected?
    Schools are selected based on the percentage of directly certified students attending each school.

    What is a "directly certified" (DC) student?
    Students may be directly certified when they receive certain federal benefits including SNAP and OWF. Students identified by the district as homeless, Head Start-eligible, migrant or runaways also are considered directly certified. Some foster children also may be directly certified.

    Applying for Free & Reduced-Price Lunches

    Students who do not attend a Community Eligibility (CE) school may qualify individually for free or reduced-price meals if their household income falls at or below these limits:

    (Income Eligibility Chart Effective July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022) Households must complete a new application each school year for the federal meal program.

    Household Size Yearly Income Monthly Income Weekly Income
    1 $23,828 $1,986 $459
    2 $32,227 $2,686 $620
    3 $40,626 $3,386 $782
    4 $49,025 $4,086 $943
    5 $57,424 $4,786 $1,105
    6 $65,823 $5,486 $1,266
    7 $74,222 $6,186 $1,428
    8 $82,621 $6,886 $1,589
    Each additional person: $8,399 $700 $162


    Applications may be completed online for the federal Free and Reduced-price Lunch program. Only one Free or Reduced-price Lunch application is required per family.

    CPS now uses SchoolCafe for Online Meal Applications. Information and Instructions on how to create an online meal account and fill out an online meal application.

    Online applications are faster, easier and more confidential. But, if you prefer, you can download an Application for Free and Reduced Price Meals. Also, paper applications are available at your child's school, or you may pick one up at CPS' Student Dining Services Office, 2315 Iowa Avenue (45206). The application changes each year. Applications submitted on prior school-year forms cannot be accepted, per federal law.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Do families need to complete a free- and reduced price meal application to be eligible to receive free meals for the 2021-2022 school year?

    No. It is not necessary to complete an application to receive free meals for the 2021-2022 school year. However, Student Dining Services are encouraging families to complete an application to see if they may qualify for additional benefits such as student fee waivers, P-EBT and reduced price internet service.

    Do families have to complete a free- and reduced-price meal application each year?

    Federal guidelines require a new application each year. If students have been pre-approved through direct certification, they will receive written notification through the mail from Student Dining Services.

    Do families have to complete a separate free- and reduced-meal application for each child?

    No, only one application is needed per household. However, the family must include all of the children in their household (even if they don't attend Cincinnati Public Schools) on the application and indicate the schools they attend.

    Questions about filling out the application? Call (513) 363-0800, or stop by the Student Dining Services Department, 2315 Iowa Ave., 2nd Floor (45206).

    Can families phone, fax or email the meal application to Student Dining Services?

    The new applications use a specific ink that is read by the scanner, so applications must be submitted on the official form with the original signature of the person filling out the form.

    As a result, Student Dining Services is unable to process applications over the phone, or receive them via email or fax. Applications forms should be returned to the child's school, or mailed or hand-delivered to CPS Student Dining Services Dept., 2315 Iowa Ave., 2nd Floor, Cincinnati, OH 45206.

    Are applications available in other languages?

    Printed applications are available in English only.

    Parents who do not speak English and need help completing the application should contact CPS' Welcome Center for English-Language Learners (ELL) for assistance: (513) 363-3251.

    The application changes each year. Applications submitted on prior school-year forms cannot be accepted per federal law.

    When does a student's free/reduced-price status change?

    Beginning of the School Year  A family must complete a new application by October 1 each school year.

    Students who attended Cincinnati Public Schools and participated in the free or reduced-price lunch program during the previous school year may continue that status for the first 30 days of the new school year, or until a new lunch application is approved.

    Students new to Cincinnati Public Schools pay for lunches until applications are completed.

    After a new application is approved, benefits begin immediately. However, parents are responsible for the cost of the meals while applications are being processed.

    If a new application is not submitted by October 1, federal regulations require that the family pays for children's lunches until a current application is completed and approved.

    Changes During the School Year
    If parents submit a new application and their new income exceeds the allowed amount, or if their income is not verified, students are immediately placed in the appropriate status — either Reduced or Paid. When changes occur throughout the year, there is a four-day grace period so that the notification has time to reach the parents.

    Does Student Dining Services try to contact parents before a student's lunch status changes?

    Student Dining Services mails applications before the start of school to all registered students. Two follow-up notices are sent home with all elementary students notifying parents who have not submitted new applications.

    Students Eat FreeWhat are paid meal prices?

    The USDA has extended free breakfast and lunch to all CPS students for the 2021-22 school year.

    Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) Program

    If a child in your household usually attends a school building, is in preschool through 12th grade, and is eligible for free or reduced-price meals at school through the National School Lunch or School Breakfast Program, they may be eligible for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program if:

    • The school has been operating with reduced attendance or hours (for example, with a hybrid schedule) for at least five consecutive days OR
    • The school has been fully remote learning for at least five consecutive days OR
    • Your child has been quarantined for five consecutive days or more due to COVID-19

    Possible Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) Summer Benefits Card Delay

    A delay has occurred in mailing the new summer P-EBT cards. For summer P-EBT, a child will receive a new P-EBT card if the child did not receive the school year 2020-2021 card after February of 2021. Please be aware some households may have received a letter indicating that the new summer P-EBT card was already received. However, new cards are not likely to arrive before the last week of July.

    Please note that P-EBT cards for the school year 2020-2021 received after February of 2021 should have the first $190 allocation of summer P-EBT already posted to the previously issued P-EBT card or the household SNAP card. The second allocation of $185 will occur on newly-mailed cards and existing P-EBT/SNAP cards in July. Schools are encouraged to communicate this information to households as possible.

    How much will my child receive?

    The benefit amount is $5.86 per child for each day the child did not receive a free or reduced priced meal at the school due to closure, reduced attendance or hours, beginning in October 2020. The benefits may change month to month, depending on how many days your child was remote learning or did not have access to breakfast or lunch at school.

    When will we receive our benefits?

    Benefits will be distributed on a monthly basis from February 2021 through August 2021.

    How can we use the benefits?

    P-EBT benefits can be used to buy food items at grocery stores and other retailers that accept the Ohio Direction Card (also referred to as an EBT card).

    How will we receive the benefits?

    If the child is a current SNAP recipient:

    • The P-EBT benefits may be added to the account on which the child is active.
    • If the child was unable to be matched to an active SNAP account, you will be sent an P-EBT card in the child's name.

    If the child is not a current SNAP recipient:

    • By mid-February, you should receive a preloaded P-EBT card in the mail.
    • The card will be in the child's name, not the parent or guardian’s name. » Instructions on how to activate the card will be included.

    Families that receive a new P-EBT card MUST keep the card to continue to receive their monthly benefit. The benefit will be issued on the card monthly.

    • For general program questions about benefits or the P-EBT card, please contact the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services customer service line at 1-866-244-0071.  
    • If you have questions about whether or not your child is eligible for free and reduced-price meals, please contact Student Dining Services at (513) 363-0800.

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