BALTIMORE, MD (July 3, 2018) – The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has announced revised Income Eligibility Guidelines (IEGs) for free and reduced-price school meals. The guidelines are set by the federal government and adopted by MSDE. These guidelines are used to determine eligibility for free or reduced-price meals in the child nutrition programs for the period of July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) annual adjustments to the IEGs are required by Section 9 of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. The guidelines are intended to directly benefit those children most in need and are revised annually to account for changes in the Consumer Price Index.

Household size and income is the most common way to determine eligibility. For example, a child from a family of four is eligible for free school meals if the household’s current annual income is below $32,630. If the family’s annual income is between $32,630 and $46,435, the child is eligible for reduced-price meals.

United States citizenship is not required in order to obtain eligibility for free or reduced-price meals. Meal Benefit Applications will be sent home from each child’s school at the beginning of the school year. Parents and guardians should fill out the application completely and send it back to the school. Please note schools cannot approve incomplete applications. Schools will then inform households whether children qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Parents and guardians may speak with school officials concerning disagreement with the school’s decision or appeal the decision and request a fair hearing with the school district’s administrators.

Children enrolled in a Head Start program or children who are certified as homeless, migrant, runaway, foster, or children living in households that receive Food Supplement Program (FSP) or Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) benefits are eligible for free meals and do not need to fill out an application.  Some FSP and TCA households will receive a letter from their school informing them that their children are eligible for free meals. FSP and TCA households that do not receive a letter by the beginning of the school year should fill out an application. Parents and guardians from households that do not qualify for any of the programs mentioned above should also complete an application.

Parents and guardians may reapply at any time during the school year and are encouraged to do so if the household size increases, they become unemployed, income decreases, or the household qualifies for FSP or TCA.

School Meals include the following programs: School Breakfast Program, National School Lunch Program, After-School Care Snack component, and Special Milk Program. The School Meals programs are administered in Maryland by MSDE and the USDA, and must meet nutrition requirements set by the USDA. Please visit the MSDE web site at for additional information regarding the Child Nutrition Programs operating in Maryland.

Individuals who want more information concerning schools or facilities that participate in one of the Child Nutrition Programs should contact a Program Specialist at 410-767-0219.

Income Eligibility Guidelines

(Effective July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019)

Household Size                      Free Meals                                     Reduced-Price Meals

   Year                Month             Week               Year                Month             Week

1                      $15,782           $1,316             $304                $22,459           $1,872             $432

2                        21,398             1,784               412                  30,451             2,538               586

3                        27,014             2,252               520                  38,443             3,204               740

4                        32,630             2,720               628                  46,435             3,870               893

5                        38,246             3,188               736                  54,427             4,536               1,047

6                        43,862             3,656               844                  62,419             5,202               1,201

7                        49,478             4,124               952                  70,411             5,868               1,355

8                        55,094             4,592               1,060               78,403             6,534               1,508

For each additional family member add…           

$5,616             $468                $108                $7,992             $666                $154

MSDE and USDA are equal opportunity providers.