ISBE Announces Eligibility Guidelines for Free and Reduced-Price Lunch, Breakfast, and After-School Snacks


Families are encouraged to contact their local school for details on accessing free and reduced-price meals

With students returning to classrooms across the state, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is announcing the eligibility guidelines for students to receive free and reduced-price lunch, breakfast, and after-school snacks through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). NSLP and SBP are funded by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered by ISBE.

USDA waivers specific to the COVID-19 pandemic are expiring, so schools are now returning to free, reduced-price, and paid eligibility for students. 

Families are encouraged to contact their local school(s) for details about accessing free and reduced-price meals, as the process may vary across school districts. 

“The importance of nutritious meals cannot be overlooked when it comes to success in the classroom. Countless studies connect nutrition to improved learning,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “Free and reduced-price meals ensure access to nutritious meals and snacks for all families. I applaud all of our food service professionals who have gone above and beyond during the pandemic to ensure students across the state continued to have access to the nutrition they needed and who are now supporting students and families through the transition back to regular meal service.”

Approved high-poverty school districts have access to the Community Eligibility Provision, which allows them to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled students without collecting household applications. 

School districts can also determine student eligibility for free and reduced-price meals through Direct Certification, a process that uses data from other public benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to determine eligibility. Families would be notified that their students have already been certified and are eligible for free meals.  

Other families would complete Household Eligibility Applications to apply for free or reduced-price meals. The applications will be assessed and determined based on federal guidelines for income and household size.

The following chart lists the household size and income criteria that determine students’ eligibility to receive free and reduced-price lunch, breakfast, and after-school snacks through NSLP and SBP. USDA’s Fiscal Year 2023 Income Eligibility Guidelines are also on ISBE’s website. The policy took effect at the start of the 2023 fiscal year on July 1, 2022. The USDA sets the policy for each fiscal year to reflect any changes in the federal poverty guidelines. The meal reimbursement rates are also annually adjusted for inflation, and the federal Keep Kids Fed Act further increased reimbursement rates to help cover rising food costs.


The United States Department of Agriculture has issued the following income guidelines for the period July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023:

Free Meals

130% Federal Poverty Guideline

Reduced-Price Meals

185% Federal Poverty Guideline

***Courtesy of the Illinois State Board of Education***

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