Unite Us Electronic School Meal Benefit Application

Welcome to the Unite Us Centralized Electronic Meal Benefit Application! 

Use of the electronic meal benefit application is optional for families with a child attending a school in one of the districts listed in the drop-down menu within the form. All schools will continue to accept paper-based applications, which can be completed and returned directly to your child's school. 

All information entered into the form below will be submitted to the RI Department of Education (RIDE) via the secure Unite Us platform. RIDE will then route the application directly to the school/district indicated within your application where it will be accessible only by the determining official for schools meals, unless you have specifically authorized additional disclosures. Your child's school is responsible for making all determinations related to free or reduced-price meals and you should follow up with them directly with any questions related to this process. 

Note: the electronic application for free or reduced-price meals below will request applicants to enter the date of birth for the individual completing the form. While this field is required in order to submit an application through the electronic form below, the data entered will  have no bearing on the determination of your application and any applicants who do not wish to disclose this data may still apply for free or reduced-price meals by completing and submitting a paper application. 

Q: Who can get free or reduced-price meals? 

A: The following children will qualify for free meal benefits: 

  • All children in households receiving SNAP or RI Works benefits
  • Foster children that are under the legal responsibility of of a foster care agency or court
  • Children participating in their school's Head Start program
  • Children who meet the definition of homeless, runaway, or migrant
  • Children living in household who's income is within the limits on the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines for free meals

The following children will qualify for reduced-price meal benefits: 

  • Children living in a household who's income is within the limits on the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines for reduced-price meals

Q: How do I know if my children qualify as homeless, migrant, or runaway? 

A: Do the members of your household lack a permanent address? Are you staying together in a shelter, hotel, or other temporary housing arrangement? Does your family relocate on a seasonal basis? Are any children living with you who have chosen to leave their prior family or household? If you believe children in your household meet these descriptions and haven't been told by your school that your children will get free meals, contact your school's homeless liaison or migrant coordinator. 

Q: Do I need to fill out a separate application for each of my children? 

A: No, as long as all of your children attend the same school district, you will use one meal benefit application for all students in your household. If you have children in multiple districts (i.e. one child attending your local public school district and another child attending a charter school) then you will need to complete one application per district. 

Q: Should I fill out an application if I received a letter this school year saying my children are already approved for free meals? 

A: No, but be sure to read the letter that you received carefully and follow the instructions. If any children in your household were missing from your eligibility notification, contact your child's school immediately. 

Q: My child's application was approved last year. Do I need to fill out a new one? 

A: Yes. Your child's application is only good for the school year in which it was approved and the first 30 days of the subsequent school year. You must send in a new application unless the school told you that your child is eligible for the new school year. If you do not send in a new application  that is approved by the school or you have not been notified that your child is eligible for free meals, your child will be charged full price for meals. 

Q: I get WIC. Can my children get free school meals?

A: Children in households participating in WIC may be eligible for free or reduced-price meals but you must complete and submit a meal benefit application. 

Q: Will the information I give be checked? 

A: Yes. Your child's school will review the information provided to make a determination about whether or not your child qualifies for free or reduced-price meals. The school may also request written proof of the household income that you report as part of the annual application verification process.

Q: If I don't qualify for free or reduced-price meals now, my I apply later?

A: Yes, you may apply at any time during the school year. For example, children with a parent or guardian who becomes unemployed may become eligible for free or reduced-price meals mid-year if the household incomes drops below the income limit. 

Q: What if I disagree with the school's decision about my application? 

A: You should talk to school officials. You will receive notification from your child's school regarding the results of your child's meal benefit application and this letter will include information for requesting a hearing related to the determination. 

Q: May I apply if someone in my household is not U.S. Citizen? 

A: Yes. You, your children, or other household members do not have to be U.S. citizens to apply for free or reduced-price school meals. 

Q: What if my income is not always the same? 

A: List the amount that you normally receive. For example, if you normally make $1,000 each month, but you missed some work last month and only made $900, put down that you make $1,000 per month. If you normally get overtime, include it, but do not include it if you only work overtime sometimes. If you have lost a job or had your hours or wages reduced, use your current income. 

Q: What if some household members have no income to report? 

A: Household members may not receive some types of income we ask you to report on the application, or may not receive income at all. Whenever this happens, please write "0" in the field. However, if any income fields are left empty or blank, those will also be counted as zeroes. 

Q: We are in the military. Do we report income differently? 

A: Your basic pay and cash bonuses must be reported as income. If you get any cash value allowances for off-base housing, food, or clothing, it must also be included as income. However, if your housing is part of the Military Housing Privatization Initiative, do not include your housing allowance as income. Any additional combat pay resulting from deployment is also excluded from income. 

Q: What if there isn't enough space on the application for my family?

A: For paper applications, list any additional household members on a separate piece of paper and attach it to your application. 

Q: My family needs more help. Are there other programs we might apply for? 

A: Your family may be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or other programs To find out if you qualify or to learn more, contact 211 - United Way RI.


Download the full FAQ Document (English)

Download the full FAQ Document (Spanish) 

Check out this short video on how to complete the school meal benefit application or follow the written instructions below. 

How to Apply for Free or Reduced-Price School Meals

Use these instructions to help you fill out the application for free or reduced-price school meals. You only need to submit one application per household if all of your children attend the same school district, even if they are in different schools. 

The application must be filled out completely to determine the eligibility of your child(ren) for free or reduced-price school meals. Each step of the instructions is the same as the steps on your application - follow them in order. If at any time you are not sure what to do next, contact your child's school for help. 

For all paper applications, use a pen (not a pencil) when filling out the application and do your best to print clearly. 

Step 1: List ALL children, infants, and students up to and including grade 12 living in your home. 

Tell your school how many infants/toddlers, children not in school, and elementary/middle/high school students live in your household. They do NOT have to be related to you to be a part of your household. 

Who should I list here? When filling out this section, include ALL members in your household who are: 

  • Children age 18 or under AND are supported by the household's income
  • In your care under a formal foster arrangement through a court of state/local agency, or qualify as homeless, migrant, or runaway youth; 
  • Students (regardless of age) attending the school district that you are submitting this application to

A) List each child's name. Use one line of the application for each child. If there are more children present then lines on the application, you can attach an additional piece of paper with all required information for the additional children. "MI" is short for middle initial; print the first letter of each child's middle name in the box labeled "MI". 

B) Is the child a student? If "yes," write the grade level of the student in the "grade" column to the right. 

C) Do you have any foster children? If any children listed are foster children, mark the "Foster Child" box next to the child's name. If you are ONLY applying for foster children, after finishing step 1, go directly to step 4. If you are applying for both foster and non-foster children, continue to step 2. 

D) Are any children homeless, migrant, or runaway? If you believe any child listed in this section meets this description, mark the "Homeless, Migrant, Runaway" box next to the child's name and complete all of the steps of the application.

Step 2: Do any household members currently participate in SNAP or RI Works? 

If anyone in your household (including you) currently participates in one or more of the assistance programs listed below, your children are eligible for free school meals: 

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • RI Works

A) If no one in your household participates in any of the above listed programs: Check "no" in step 2 and go on to step 3. 

B) If anyone in your household participates in any of the above listed programs: Write a case number for SNAP or RI Works. You only need to provide one case number. If you do not know your case number, contact the RI Department of Human Services. Note: your case number is NOT the same as your 16-digit EBT card number. After entering your case number, go directly to step 4. 

Step 3: List all household members and income for each member. 

How do I report my income? 

  • Use the lists titled "Sources of Income" & "Examples of Income for Children," on the back side of the application form to determine if your household has income to report. 
  • Report all amounts in GROSS INCOME ONLY. Report all income in whole dollars. Do not include cents.
    • Gross income is the total income received before taxes and deduction. 
    • May people thing of income as the amount they "take home" and not the total, "gross amount. Make sure that the income you report on this application has NOT been reduced to pay for taxes, insurance premiums, or any other amounts taken from your pay. 
  • Write a "0" in any fields where there is no income to report. Any income fields left empty or blank will also be counted as a zero. If you write a "0" or leave any fields blank, you are certifying (promising) that there is no income to report. If local officials suspect that your household income was reported incorrectly, your application will be investigated. 
  • Mark how often each type of income is received using the check boxes to the right of each field. 

Who should I list here? 

  • When filling out this section, include ALL adults in your household who are living with you and share income and expenses, even if they are not related and even if they do not receive income of their own. 
  • Do NOT include: 
    • People who live with you but are not supported by your household's income AND do not contribute to your household. 
    • Infants, children, and students already listed in step 1.

Adult Income

A) List adult household members' names. Include college students, unless they are declared independently on taxes (all college students are considered adults). Do not list any household members you already listed in step 1. 

B) List earnings from work. List all income from work in the "Earnings from Work" field on the application. This is usually the money received from working at jobs. If you are a self-employed business or farm owner, you will report your net income. Net income is your income after taxes and deductions have been subtracted. 

C) List income from public assistance/child support/alimony. List all income that applies in the "Public Assistance/Child Support/Alimony" field of the application. Do not report the cash value of any public assistance benefits NOT listed on the chart. If income is received from child support or alimony, only report court-ordered payments. Informal but regular payments should be reported as "other income in the next part. 

D) List income from pensions/retirement/all other income. List all income that applies in the "Pensions/Retirement/All Other Income field on the application. 

Child Income

What is Child Income? Child income is money received from outside your household that is paid DIRECTLY to your children. Many households do not have any child income. 

A) List all income earned or received by children. List the combined gross income for ALL children listed in step 1 in your household in the box marked "Child Income." Only count foster children's income if you are applying for them together with the rest of your household. 

List total household Size. Enter the total number of household members in the field "Total Household Members (Children and Adults)." This number MUST be equal to the number of household members listed in step 1 and step 3. If there are any members of your household that you have not listed on the application, go back and add them. It is very important to list all household members, as the size of your household affects your eligibility for free or reduced-price meals. 

Provide the last four digits of your Social Security Number. An adult household member must either enter the last four digits of their Social Security Number in the space provided OR check the box labeled "Check if no Social Security Number." Your are eligible to apply for benefits even if you do not have a Social Security Number. 

Step 4: Contact information and adult signature. 

All applications must be signed by an adult member of the household. By signing the application, that household member is promising that all information has been truthfully and completely reports. Before completing this section, please also make sure you have read the statements on the back of the application. 

Print and sign your name and write today's date. 

Optional: Share your children's racial and ethnic identities (optional). On the back of the application, you are asked to share information about your children's race and ethnicity. This field is optional and does not affect your children's eligibility for free or reduced-price school meals. This information is requested solely for the purpose of determining the State's compliance with Federal civil rights laws, and your response will not affect consideration of your application, and may be protected by the Privacy Act. By providing this information, you will assist in assuring that the school meals program is administered in a nondiscriminatory manner. 

For all paper applications, return the application directly to your child's SCHOOL. DO NOT mail, fax, or email completed applications or questions about applications to the USDA Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights or your child's eligibility for free or reduced-price meals will be delayed. 

Download complete Application Instructions (English)

Download complete Application Instructions (Spanish) 

Download the Sources of Income Chart & Examples of Income for Children (English)

Download the Sources of Income Chart & Examples of Income for Childrens (Spanish)