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Free lunch in schools: Who's offering it?

Last year, school districts once again offered free lunch to all students. But will that happen again this year?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Students at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools go back to class in less than a month and there are some changes families should be aware of this school year regarding school lunches. 

Last year, CMS and other districts offered free meals to all students, but the legislation that provided that waiver to districts has expired. So will all students, regardless of their family's income level receive free meals? 

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Will all school districts offer free lunch for all students? 



This is false.

No, not all school districts will offer free lunch for all students.


Screen said a balanced meal can make all the difference in a kid's day, which is why lunch is so important. 

During the height of the pandemic, federal waivers were put in place that allowed all schools to offer free meals for all students, regardless of family income status. 

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"In March of 2020, everyone across the country got free lunch and that extended all last year," Marshall said. 

However, those waivers have now expired. 

"This year it's going back to the way it was before," Marshall said. "We need to apply in order to receive lunch."

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Parents and caregivers who think their child qualifies for free lunch need to fill out an application. 

However, there are some districts in the Charlotte area participating in a new program called Community Eligibility Provision. According to the USDA, it’s a meal service option for schools and school districts in low-income areas that allows them to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to all students. 


CMS is returning to its previous online meal application process for families seeking free or reduced-price lunch. To find out if your CMS student qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch, submit a meal application with School Nutrition Services. It can be found CMS’ School Nutrition webpage starting Aug. 1.

Alexander County

Families can apply for free or reduced lunch on LunchApplication.com. They can find a flyer with more information at https://www.alexander.k12.nc.us/domain/20. Only one form per household needs to be filled out. 

Anson County

Anson County Schools is participating in a new program called Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which will allow all county schools to provide healthy breakfast and lunches each day at no charge for all students. Families can learn more here.

Avery County

Avery County Schools has free and reduced meal applications available online via LunchApplication.com. The district will also offer paper applications that will be sent home with students on the first day of school for families that might not have internet access. This is a family application, so only one application is needed per family.

Burke County

The free and reduced meal application for Burke County opened Friday, July 1, for the 2022-2023 school year. Families with multiple children in the district can include all children in one application. The application can be found here. Paper copies are available at each of the district’s school offices as well. 

Catawba County

Catawba County School's meal application will be available at www.lunchapplication.com, as well as on the district’s website. Additionally, all schools will have a fuchsia paper form readily available for parents to pick up at their student's school office. The district also plans to send out paper applications at the start of school. 

Cabarrus County

Cabarrus County Schools is currently accepting free or reduced-price meal applications for the 2022-2023 school year. The application is available online at www.LunchApplication.com. Only one application is needed per household. 

When completing your application online, be sure to have:

  • Student ID number. This is usually found on your student's class schedule.

  • Your income information. Give us your gross earnings (what you earn before taxes and deductions from your pay).

  • Income information of all members living in your household.

  • Be sure to press the "finished" button when you have completed your application. This will finalize your application and submit for processing and final approval.

  • If you do not have a computer at home, the Cabarrus County Public Library has multiple locations with internet access and a computer that you may use. You just need to show identification. You do not need to have a library card to access these services. 

Gaston County

There are 19 schools that qualify for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) program.  All students at those schools will receive meals free of charge. No application is needed. To see the list of those schools click here.

Parents with a child at a non-CEP school are encouraged to apply to receive free or reduced-price meals. Eligibility is based on household income and the number of people in the household. The application (in paper format) can be picked up from the school office or school cafeteria or at the School Nutrition Office, 500 Reid Street, Lowell. The application (in electronic format) can be completed by clicking here.

Hickory Schools

Families can apply for free or reduced lunch on LunchApplication.com


In order for your child to be approved for the 2022-2023 school year you need to fill out an application online at www.LunchApplication.com. If not approved before school starts back, you will have to pay for their meals. Families who filled out an application for the last school year and were approved will have their status carry over the first 30 days of the 2022-2023 school year. You will still have to reapply to be approved before the first 30 days expire.

Kannapolis City

Kannapolis City Schools is participating in a new program called Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which will allow the district to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students. 

Lincoln County

You can apply online for your children to receive free or reduced price meals. To apply, simply go to LunchApplication.com or CLICK HERE. Only one application per household is needed. On the application you must include all students that attend Lincoln County Schools, as well as all other members of the household. Once your application has been received the district office will determine your eligibility and send you a letter with the results. If there is a change in your household size or income, you can apply, or re-apply, for benefits at any time during the school year. If you need a paper application, one is available at your child’s school office. For more information, click here.

Newton Conover

Meal Benefit Applications are now open for NCCS families to complete for the 2022-2023 school year. Families can go to www.lunchapplication.com or visit the district’s Child Nutrition Department page and download a printable form.


  • If applying online - Make sure to select 'Newton-Conover Schools' as your district

  • You must list ALL persons living in the household, including ALL income 

  • Printed forms will need to be brought to your child's school or our central office

  • Should you have any additional questions, please contact the district.


If a child needs free or reduced lunch, parents must fill out a free and reduced lunch form on the new Titan Family Portal. Paper copies are still available at all schools if families cannot fill out an online application. School Nutrition will continue to provide universal breakfast to all students at no cost. No-cost meals will still be provided to all students at RSS’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) Schools: 

● Hanford-Dole Elementary
● Henderson Independent High
● Hurley Elementary
● Isenberg Elementary
● Knox Middle
● Koontz Elementary
● Landis Elementary
● North Rowan Elementary
● North Rowan Middle
● Overton Elementary RSS

Stanly County

Some schools will be able to provide free lunch to all under the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) program. Those schools are listed here. For students who do not attend those schools, families can fill out an application for free or reduced lunch at LunchApplication.com. More information can be found here.

Union County

All parents are encouraged to complete free and reduced meal applications before the first day of school via Lunchapplication.com. Parents will need their child/children’s name, school name(s), student ID numbers and information about their total household income. If you do not have access to a computer, you may complete the meal application at your child’s school during specified hours. If you need a paper copy of the meal application, call 704-296-3000. Students at Walter Bickett Elementary, East Elementary and South Providence School will remain eligible for free breakfast and lunch via the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). For more information head here.

Watauga County

Free and reduced meal applications must be completed each school year. Applications from previous years do not automatically roll over to the following year. You should only complete one application per family, listing all school-aged children on one application. To begin the application process, go to https://family.titank12.com and complete the required information. Follow the prompts in the software and submit the application once it is complete. The application is sent from a secure server directly to the WCS School Nutrition office. If you have problems with the meal application or need additional information please contact Titan School Solutions at 844-467-4700 ext. 2. If you do not have access to the internet, ask the school office for a paper copy of this year’s application or call the School Nutrition office at 828-263-1718 and request a copy.

Chester County

All students will receive free lunch due to the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) program. No applications are required.

Chesterfield County

The Chesterfield County School District is participating in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) program for the 2022-2023 school year. This means all students enrolled in the district can get free breakfast and lunch. Families do not have to fill out meal applications. You may contact your School Food Service Director 843-623-2175 for additional information. Parents or guardians that do not want their child/children to participate in CEP may wish to discuss this matter with the director of school food service, Reba Newton. Parents wishing to make a formal appeal may make a request either orally or in writing to Reba Newton whose address is 401 West Blvd. Chesterfield, South Carolina, 29709.


Children may be eligible for free or reduced lunch depending on household size and income criteria. For school officials to determine eligibility, the household must provide the following information on the application, which can be found here

  • A SNAP or TANF case number certifying the household is currently eligible for either of these assistance programs and an adult household member signature or 
  • Names of all household members, the name and last four digits of the social security number of the adult household member signing the application form, current income by source for each household member and a signature of an adult household member certifying that the information provided is correct. 

Foster children may also be eligible for these benefits regardless of household income. If a household has foster children living with them and the household has not previously been notified by the School District that their foster children have been directly certified for free meals, the household should include and count the foster children (including personal income earned by the foster children) on the household application form with other non-foster children. 

Under the provisions of the policy, Allison Perkins will review applications and determine eligibility. Parents or guardians dissatisfied with the ruling of the reviewing official may wish to discuss the decision with the reviewer on an informal basis. Parents wishing to make a formal appeal may make a request either orally or in writing to Ken Love whose address is: 604 Bethel Street, Clover, South Carolina, 29710 for a hearing to appeal the decision. 

If a household member becomes unemployed or if household size changes, the household should contact the school to file a meal application. Such changes may make the children of the household eligible for free or reduced-price meals if the household income falls at or below the levels shown above.

For more information head here.

Fort Mill

The district will provide free and reduced priced meals for all who qualify. More information about how to apply for this program can be found on the district’s Student Nutrition website or by clicking here. The district encourages all families to complete this application, even if you do not feel you will qualify.

Rock Hill

Applications can be filled out at lunchapplication.com

Rock Hill has six schools participating in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) program. They are:

  • Independence Elementary
  • Northside Elementary
  • Richmond Drive Elementary
  • Sunset Park Elementary
  • York Road Elementary
  • Rawlinson Road Middle School

All students at these schools can get free breakfast and lunch.

More information can be found here.

York County

Families can apply for meal benefits at https://www.lunchapplication.com/.

Contact Meghan Bragg at mbragg@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. 

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