EARLY YEARS: No Kid Hungry Virginia campaign encourages families to apply for free or reduced school meals

More than 693,000 students in the Commonwealth qualify for free meals
Filling out the free or reduced meal form can also mean assistance with extracurricular activities, home WiFi and more
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 5:40 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) -You might say food is the most important school supply.

Kids need full bellies to focus in the classroom.

“School meals are so important to our students, their ability to thrive, to learn and grow is also important for families to stretch their budgets and take something off the very busy plate of so many working parents across Virginia,” says Sarah Steely, Director of No Kid Hungry Virginia.

While many Virginia divisions offer free breakfast and lunch, many of these programs are under utilized.

According to No Kid Hungry Virginia, more than 693,000 students in the Commonwealth qualify for free meals.

Students with families at or below 185% of the federal poverty level are eligible.

During the pandemic, school meals were free for all students.

“This is what keeps me up at night. Parents who had kids enter the school system during that time didn’t have to fill out the form and now just aren’t familiar with the process,” she says.

Steely says even if you’re not sure if your family qualifies, fill out the paperwork.

“We don’t want parents racking up meal debt if they qualify for free meals, just because they didn’t fill out the form,” says Steely.

And it’s not just for free or reduced meals.

“By filling out the form and determining eligibility, there are other opportunities, like reduced exam fees or scholarship applications, reduced cost for extra-curricular, sometimes even help with home WiFi,” says Steely.

Click this link to applications for assistance for each Virginia school district.

Steely says if parents have any questions about free or reduced school meals, the best thing to do is reach out to their child’s school nutrition department.