RIDE Announces Back-to-School Meal Benefit Application Events, Releases Outreach Toolkit for Districts

Published on Friday, July 28, 2023

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) announced today that families will be able to prepare for the upcoming 2023-2024 academic year by receiving assistance completing the application for free or reduced-price school meals for their children. Community events to support families will be held at local libraries across the state throughout the month of August.

“Good nutrition plays a key role in students’ academic success and their healthy growth and development,” said Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. “When students are not experiencing hunger, they are more likely to excel in all facets of life including school. We encourage families to submit a Meal Benefit Application, so they are prepared to kick-off another fantastic and healthy school year.”

The federal waiver program implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic that allowed all students to receive free school meals expired in 2022. Due to the change in federal guidelines, most schools must collect school meal benefit applications as they did pre-pandemic. Of the 135,732 students enrolled in public local education agencies as of October 2022, 87,658 already have access to free school meals either through individual eligibility or via a universal free school meals program implemented at their school, regardless of individual student eligibility. 

Meal Benefit Applications (MBA) are sent to households in Rhode Island during the summer alongside a letter informing families of the free and reduced-price meal program. The information that a household provides is confidential and is only used to determine the benefits students will receive. Income-based applications must contain complete documentation of the requested eligibility information, including: 

  1. Names of all household members 
  2. Amount and source of income received by each household member 
  3. Last four digits of the social security number of the adult signing the application, unless they have checked the box indicating he or she does not have a social security number 
  4. Signature of adult who is certifying the information provided is correct  

Households only need to complete one application if all children attend the same school district. Many schools accept electronic MBAs, which can be submitted online, and all schools will accept paper applications returned directly to your child’s school. If assistance is needed to complete the form, video tutorials are available in both English and Spanish, or families may attend a help session at their local library throughout the month of August.  

Additionally, the Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition (RIHSC) in partnership with RIDE Child Nutrition Programs has developed a toolkit to support district/school efforts with outreach strategies, communication templates, and meal service models to ensure all students have access to healthy meals.

Children in households that already receive Special Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or RIWorks cash assistance are automatically eligible for school meal benefits. Children who meet the definition of foster, homeless, migrant, or runaway and children enrolled in their school’s Head Start program are also eligible for free meals but must submit an MBA.  

Despite applications being sent out during the summer months, household members can turn in their application at any point during the school year. If a family is ineligible now, but the household income goes down, household size goes up, or a member of the household starts receiving benefits from SNAP or RIWorks, you may turn in an application at that time. Information given on the application may be verified at any time during the school year by school officials.  

A child’s individual eligibility status from last school year will continue into the upcoming school year for up to 30 school days, until the school processes the new application, or the child is otherwise determined to be eligible for free or reduced-price meals. After the 30 school days, the child will have to pay full price for meals unless the household receives a letter notifying them of free or reduced-price meals.  

Please see the list of library locations and corresponding event dates below:  

  • 08/02/23: 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. Jesse Smith Library, 100 Tinkham Lane, Harrisville, RI 02830 
  • 08/07/23: 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. North Providence Union Free Library, 1810 Mineral Spring Avenue, North Providence, RI 02904 
  • 08/08/23: 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. Adams Public Library, 205 Central Street, Central Falls, RI 02863 
  • 8/9/23: 11 a.m - 2 p.m. East Providence Library, 41 Grove Avenue, East Providence, RI 02914 
  • 08/10/23: 12:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. Warwick Public Library, 600 Sandy Lane, Warwick, RI 02889 
  • 08/11/23: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Cranston Public Library, 140 Sockanosset Cross Road, Cranston, RI 02920 
  • 08/15/23: 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. Westerly Public Library, 44 Broad Street, Westerly, RI 02891 
  • 08/16/23: 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. Newport Public Library, 300 Spring Street, Newport, RI 02840 
  • 8/18/23: 10 a.m - 1 p.m. Rogers Free Library, 525 Hope Street, Bristol, RI 02809 
  • 8/18/23: 2:30 p.m - 5:30 p.m Mohr Library, 1 Memorial Avenue, Johnston, RI 02919

RIDE is an equal opportunity provider. 

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