Maryland State Education Department releases updated free, reduced meals guidelines

Maryland State Education Department releases updated free, reduced meals guidelines
In this file photo, Rosemary Passerini, 7, left and Gabe Velasquez, 7, right, weigh their lunch options at the Robert Moton Elementary School. (Paul W. Gillespie / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Revised Income Eligibility Guidelines for free and reduced-price meals allows for families to make a bit more money than last year and still qualify for the program.

The Maryland State Department of Education released the guidelines, which are set by the federal government, according to a news release from MSDE, on Tuesday. The guidelines determine eligibility for the time period of July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019.


“Every year they adjust a little,” said Karen Sarno, supervisor of food services Carroll County Public Schools. This change is based on the consumer price index, she said.

Last year, Sarno said, a family of four was eligible for reduced meals if they made $45,510 or less — this year, that number was raised to $46,435. For free meals, the income level went from $31,980 last year to $32,630 this year, she said.

Sarno said the change is made because each year, it costs more to sustain a household.

According to the news release from MSDE, U.S. citizenship is not required in order to be eligible.

Children who are 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 or Temporary Cash Assistance benefits” are also eligible and according to the release, do not need to fill out an application.

Sarno said CCPS is always accepting applications for students to enroll in the program. The number is always fluctuating some, she said, because families’ situations can change.

“There’s always a chance that there can be a change in household income,” she said.

Parents and guardians may reapply at any time during the school year, according to the release. If a household size increases, someone becomes unemployed, income decreases or the household qualifies for FSP or TCA, families are encouraged to apply.

As of the 2017-2018 school year, nearly 1 in 5 children qualified for free or reduced meals, Sarno said. Last year, 19.45 percent of children — or 4,923 students — were enrolled in the program, she said.

“We’re the lowest percentage in the state,” Sarno added.

But while Carroll’s numbers are the smallest, Sarno said it’s expensive to live in the county, and so this program is an opportunity to have one less expense families have to worry about.

Sarno said families have to fill out a meal benefit form and return it to the school to enroll. The form will be on CCPS’s website in a few weeks, and is sent home with kids at the start of the school year, she said. The benefits from the previous year carry over 30 operating days into the next year, giving families the chance to reapply, she added.

“We want to do whatever we can to get access,” Sarno said.

The summer meals program through CCPS also began last month.


This year’s locations are:

  • Friendship Valley Elementary School (lunch from 11 a.m. to noon): June 25-July 20 (Monday through Friday); no service June 26 or July 4
  • Taneytown Elementary School (lunch from 11 a.m. to noon): June 28, July 10, July 12, July 19, July 20, July 26, July 27 (select days); Aug. 6-17 (Monday through Friday)
  • Francis Scott Key High School (lunch from 11 a.m. to noon): July 23-Aug. 3 (Monday through Friday)
  • Trinity Lutheran Church, Taneytown (supper from 6-6:30 p.m.): June 18-28 (Monday through Thursday); July 9-Aug. 2 (Monday through Thursday)

Anyone with questions about free or reduced meals can call CCPS Food Services at 410-751-3040. For more information on the revised income guidelines, visit: