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Free & Reduced-Price Lunch Program

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, 2020 to June 30, 2021) Households must complete a new application each school year for the federal meal program.

Household Size Yearly Income Monthly Income Weekly Income
1 $23,606 $1,968 $454
2 $31,894 $2,658 $614
3 $40,182 $3,349 $773
4 $48,470 $4,040 $933
5 $56,758 $4,730 $1,092
6 $65,046 $5,421 $1,251
7 $73,334 $6,112 $1,411
8 $81,622 $6,802 $1,570
Each additional person: $8,288 $691 $160


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 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.

What are paid meal prices?

Breakfast is served to all CPS' students at no charge.


    Elementary: $1.75
    Secondary: $2.00

Milk — All grades: $0.50 cents

Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) Program

As the new school year begins, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing a second-round distribution of the Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program. This second round is only available to students with remote learning periods lasting at least five consecutive days. This includes students attending schools operating a fully remote model, a hybrid model, or pandemic virtual/digital learning academy within a school that includes remote learning days for at least five consecutive days between the dates August 1 and September 30, 2020. The federal law only authorizes P-EBT through September 30, 2020. Therefore, all benefits must be issued prior to September 30, 2020.

The Ohio Department of Education is partnering with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) to ensure children and families receive this important benefit. The P-EBT benefit will be issued by ODJFS.

The P-EBT program provides families eligible for free or reduced-price meals with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps, in the amount of $5.86 (the federal reimbursement rate for breakfast and lunch) for each day a school has remote learning provided for at least five consecutive days. All children eligible for free and reduced-price meals are eligible for these benefits, including children who were approved through Direct Certification and children approved based on a free or reduced-price student meal application, as long as the student has remote learning periods lasting at least five consecutive days.

  • If you child is enrolled at a Community Eligibility Provision school, they will automatically receive the P-EBT and no further action is required.
  • If you child is enrolled at one of the following schools, you must complete an application and qualify as free or reduced meal eligibility to receive the P-EBT: CANS, Clark Montessori, Fairview, Hyde Park, Kilgour, Sands Montessori, SCPA, Spencer Center and Walnut Hills.
  • Cincinnati Digital Academy is part of Virtual High School. Virtual High School is a Community Eligibility Provision school, so no application needs to be completed by CDA students.
  • Please note that P-EBT is only available for K-12 students; preschool students are not eligible.
  • The deadline for applications to be submitted and approved is September 14. Applications received after that date will not be eligible for P-EBT benefits.
  • If you already have an EBT card, the amount will be loaded to your current card. If you do not have an EBT card, one will be mailed to you at the current address on file with CPS as of September 14th, 2020.
  • Your participation in the program is voluntary, and you do not have to accept the card and use it. If you choose not to participate, please dispose of your card by cutting through the magnetic stripe on the card and discard the card in a secure manner.  The card is NOT transferable. 
  • The amount of P-EBT will be $111.34. This is $5.86 (the federal reimbursement rate for breakfast and lunch) for each day a school has remote learning provided for at least five consecutive days. For CPS, this is a projection of 19 total days of remote learning (August 31-September 25). While the Board of Education will make a decision the evening of September 14 if we will remain in full remote learning or transition to a blending learning model, the days have to be submitted by September 14. 
  • For general program questions or question 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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