National School Lunch Program Application 2023-24

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    The 2023-2024 National School Lunch Application will be available online starting August 3.

    Download and complete the 2023-24 WCASD NSLP Application -  Spanish 2023-24 WCASD NSLP Application


    Numerous scientific studies have suggested a strong link between child nutrition and learning in school. This supports the importance of the availability of school meals programs in improving the educational performance of our children.

    Every school day the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) serves nutritious meals to more than 26 million children nationwide. Pennsylvania served more than 167 million school lunches during the 1998-1999 school year. These healthy meals enhance our children's readiness to learn.

    How does it work? The NSLP is a federal and state reimbursement program for each meal served that meets federal requirements. All NSLP sponsors are required to offer free and reduced-price lunches to eligible children. Reimbursement rates are established annually by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Sponsors are entitled to receive USDA commodities for each lunch they serve. The variety of commodities sponsors may receive depends on product availability and market prices.

    Who may participate? Any public school, intermediate unit, charter school, area vocational-technical or career technology school, public residential child care institution, and tax-exempt non-public school or residential child care institution may apply to be an NSLP sponsor.

    How do children qualify for free or reduced-price lunches? Children from families with incomes at or below 130% of the poverty level and children in families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and children in families receiving food stamp benefits are eligible for free lunches. Children in families whose income is between 130% and 185% of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-price lunches.

    What are the meal requirements? To qualify for reimbursement, NSLP sponsors must meet certain requirements depending upon the menu option they have selected for their school. In the Traditional and Food-Based Menu Options, they have specific minimum requirements in four food components that consist of five food items. The components are Bread/Grains, Fruit/Vegetable, Meat/Meat Alternate and Fluid Milk. The serving sizes/amounts vary depending on the age of the students. The NuMenu and Assisted NuMenu Options are based on three menu items: an entrée, side dish, and milk.


    1. Who can get free or reduced-price meals?
      • All children in households receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly the Food Stamp Program) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) (cash assistance) are eligible for free meals.
      • Foster children under the legal responsibility of a foster care agency or court are eligible for free meals.
      • Children participating in their school’s Head Start program are eligible for free meals.
      • Children who meet the definition of homeless, runaway, or migrant are eligible for free meals.
      • Children may receive free or reduced-price meals if your household’s income is within the limits on the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines. Your children may qualify for free or reduced-price meals if your household income falls at or below the limits on the following chart.
    1. How do I know if my child(ren) qualify as homeless, migrant, or runaway? Do the members of your household lack a permanent address? Are you staying together in a shelter, hotel, or other temporary housing arrangement? Does your family relocate on a seasonal basis? Are any children living with you who have chosen to leave their prior family or household? If you believe children in your household meet these descriptions and have not been told your children will get free meals, please call or e-mail Tricia Alston, Social Worker Coordinator at (484) 266-1226 or
    2. Do I need to fill out an application for each child? Use one Household Application for Free and Reduced-Price Meals for all students in your household. We cannot approve an application that is not complete, so be sure to fill out all required information.
    3. Should I fill out an application if I received a letter this school year saying my children are already approved for free meals? No, but please read the letter you received carefully and follow the instructions. If any children in your household were missing from your eligibility notification, contact your child’s school caseworker (information is attached)
    4. Can I apply online? Yes! You are encouraged to complete an online application instead of a paper application if you are able. The online application has the same requirements and will ask you for the same information as the paper application. Visit to begin or to learn more about the online application process. Contact your child’s school caseworker (information is attached) if you have any questions about the online application.
    5. My child’s application was approved last year. Do I need to fill out a new application? Your child’s application is only good for last school year and for the first 30 operating days of this school year, through 10/12/23. You must complete a new application unless the school told you that your child is eligible for free or reduced-price meals for the new school year. If you do not complete a new application that is approved by the school or you have not been notified that your child is eligible for free meals, your child will be charged the full price for meals.
    6. I get Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Can my children get free meals? Children in households participating in WIC may be eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Please complete an application.
    7. Will the information I give be checked? We may also ask you to send written proof of the household income you report.
    8. 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 or reduced-price meals if the household income drops below the income limit.
    9. 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: Melisa Kleiman, Director of Pupil Services for West Chester Area School District at 782 Springdale Drive Exton, PA 19341 or at (484) 266-1210.
    10. May I apply if someone in my household is not a U.S. citizen? You, your children, or other household members do not have to be U.S. citizens to apply for free or reduced-price meals.
    11. What if my income is not always the same? List the amount that you normally receive. For example, if you normally make $1000 each month, but you missed some work last month and only made $900, put down that you made $1000 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.
    12. What if some household members have no income to report? Household members may not receive some types of income we ask you to report on the application, or may not receive income at all. Whenever this happens, please write a 0 in the field. However, if any income fields are left empty or blank, those will also be counted as zeroes. Please be careful when leaving income fields blank, as we will assume you meant to do so.
    13. We are in the military. Do we report our income differently? Your basic pay, cash bonuses, and allowances for off-base housing, food, and clothing, must be reported as income. Exclude combat pay, Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance, and privatized housing allowances.
    14. 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, visit, contact your local county assistance office, or call the Department of Human Services at 1-800-692-7462.



    •1932 - Some school lunch programs received federal loans and agricultural surpluses.

    •1935 Legislation authorized the USDA to purchase surplus farm commodities and distribute them to the school lunch program. By 1939, 900,000 children in 14,000 schools participated in the program. During the late 1930's the Works Progress Administration (WPA) provided labor for cooking and serving lunches.

    •1946 - The National School Lunch Act (NSLA) permanently authorized the lunch program. It established a basic meal pattern requirement and required schools to serve lunches free or at a reduced price to children in need.

    •1949 - Commodity assistance for the NSLP was authorized to supplement price support and surplus removal programs.

    •1954 - P.L. 83-69 established the Special Milk Program (SMP) when funds from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) were authorized to be used to increase fluid milk consumption among children in non-profit schools.

    •1956 - Authorization for CCC funds was increased to $75 million per year (P.L. 84-465). Eligibility expanded to include children in non-profit child care centers, settlement houses, summer camps and similar institutions.

    •1960 - P.L. 86-446 authorized funds to reimburse CCC for the SMP and raised the annual funding level to $95 million.

    •1962 - Funds for free and reduced-price lunches were first authorized for schools.