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To establish that a household meets income eligibility requirements for benefits, reviewing officials must compare the household size and the total household income to the applicable Income Eligibility Guidelines.

Only complete applications can be approved for meal benefits. Applications missing required information must be denied if the missing information cannot be obtained. To be considered complete, an application must include the required information. The SFA should make reasonable efforts to contact the household to obtain or clarify required information. All contact with families regarding eligibility can and should be documented on the application.

A complete income application must provide:

  • Names of all household members;
  • Amount, source, and frequency of current income for each household member;
  • Signature of an adult household member; and
  • Last four digits of the social security number of the household’s primary wage earner or another adult household member, or an indication that the household member does not have one.

If an application lacks how frequently income is received (e.g., weekly, monthly, etc.), the reviewing official should make reasonable efforts to contact the household to clarify the frequency of income. If the SFA is unable to reach the family, the SFA will process the income as weekly.

*Note: Applications cannot be approved for temporary free or temporary reduced price benefits. There is no temporary eligibility.

Reportable Income

Households must report current income on a free and reduced price application. See the USDA Eligibility Manual for School Meals for additional information on reportable income.

  • Income is any money (before deductions), received on a recurring basis, including earnings, pensions, and child or spousal support, unless an income source is specifically excluded by law for the Child Nutrition Programs.
  • Gross earned income means all money earned before deductions such as income taxes, employee’s Social Security taxes, insurance premiums, and bonds.
  • Current income means the gross income received by a household, before deductions, for the current month, or the amount projected for the first month for which the application is filled out, or for the month prior to application. If this income is higher or lower than usual and does not fairly or accurately represent the household’s actual circumstances, the household may, in conjunction with determining officials, project its annual rate of income. USDA does not set any specific requirements regarding the frequency (e.g., weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) at which household income is reported on an application. While in most cases earners report income on a more frequent basis, there is no prohibition against annual income reporting. For more information, see: SP 19-2017: Reporting Annual Income on School Meal Applications,
Indicating Income and Income Sources

Each household must provide the total amount of current gross income. The application must identify the source of the income earned by adults or children as applicable, and the adult or child who received it (such as wages or Social Security) [7 CFR 245.6(a)(5)(i) and 245.6(a)(5)(ii)].

Indication of No Income

Applications where the family has reported zero (0) income must be given free meal benefits from the point of approval, through the end of the school year. These families must also be provided free benefits for the first 30 operating days of the next school year (or until a new application is received for the next school year, whichever comes first). Any income field left blank is a positive indication of no income and certifies there is no income to report. 

Income Conversion for Multiple Frequencies of Income

Many households have different sources of income at different frequencies, such as weekly or bi-weekly (every two weeks) wages and/or monthly social security benefits.

Use the following procedures:

  • If a household has only one income source, or if all sources are the same frequency, do not use conversion factors. Compare the income or the sum of the incomes to the published Income Eligibility Guidelines for the appropriate frequency and household size to make the eligibility determination.
  • If a household reports income sources at more than one frequency, the acceptable method is to convert all income to an annual amount by multiplying weekly income by 52, income received every two weeks by 26, income received twice per month by 24 and income received monthly by 12. Do not round the values resulting from each conversion. Add all the un-rounded converted values and compare the un-rounded total to the published Income Eligibility Guidelines for annual income for the appropriate household size.

*Note: School districts must ensure that software they are using does not convert all income to monthly. Software should only convert to annual income when there are multiple income frequencies. The software should not round up each frequency calculation before totaling.

Income Exclusions

Income excluded from the determination of a household’s eligibility for free and reduced price meal benefits includes the following:

  • Any cash income or value of benefits excluded by statute, such as the value of benefits under SNAP or FDPIR and some Federal educational benefits;
  • Payments received from a foster care agency or court for the care of foster children;
  • Student financial assistance provided for the costs of attendance at an educational institution, such as grants and scholarships awarded to meet educational expenses and not available to pay for meals;
  • Loans, such as bank loans, since these funds are only temporarily available and must be repaid; and
  • Infrequent earnings received on an irregular basis, such as payment for occasional baby-sitting or yard work.

Also see the USDA Eligibility Manual for School Meals for additional information.

Last updated
June 5, 2019

USDA Nondiscrimination Statement

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA. 

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.  Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at:, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

(1)     mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture
         Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
         1400 Independence Avenue, SW
         Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;

(2)     fax: (202) 690-7442; or

(3)     email:

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.


Click here for Nondiscrimination Statement translations.

Los demás programas de asistencia nutricional del FNS, las agencias estatales y locales, y sus beneficiarios secundarios, deben publicar el siguiente Aviso de No Discriminación:

De conformidad con la Ley Federal de Derechos Civiles y los reglamentos y políticas de derechos civiles del Departamento de Agricultura de los EE. UU. (USDA, por sus siglas en ingles), se prohíbe que el USDA, sus agencias, oficinas, empleados e instituciones que participan o administran programas del USDA discriminen sobre la base de raza, color, nacionalidad, sexo, discapacidad, edad, o en represalia o venganza por actividades previas de derechos civiles en algún programa o actividad realizados o financiados por el USDA.

Las personas con discapacidades que necesiten medios alternativos para la comunicación de la información del programa (por ejemplo, sistema Braille, letras grandes, cintas de audio, lenguaje de seas americano, etc.), deben ponerse en contacto con la agencia (estatal o local) en la que solicitaron los beneficios. Las personas sordas, con dificultades de audición o discapacidades del habla pueden comunicarse con el USDA por medio del Federal Relay Service [Servicio Federal de Retransmisión] al (800) 877-8339. Además, la información del programa se puede proporcionar en otros idiomas.

Para presentar una denuncia de discriminación, complete el Formulario de Denuncia de Discriminación del Programa del USDA, (AD-3027) que está disponible en linea en: y en cualquier oficina del USDA, o bien escriba una carta dirigida al USDA e incluya en la carta toda la información solicitada en el formulario. Para solicitar una copia del formulario de denuncia, llame al (866) 632-9992. Haga llegar su formulario lleno o carta al USDA por:

(1)     correo: U.S. Department of Agriculture
         Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
         1400 Independence Avenue, SW
         Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;

(2)     fax: (202) 690-7442; o

(3)     correo electró

Esta institución es un proveedor que ofrece igualdad de oportunidades.