School Meals Applications Outreach Toolkit No Kid Hungry

This toolkit is intended for school districts to communicate with families about Free & Reduced-Price School Meals Applications, also known by other names like Household Applications for Free and Reduced-Price School Meals, and Free and Reduced-Price Meal Forms (FRP forms).

Within the toolkit you will find:

  • Guidance about connecting with families
  • Examples from other school districts
  • Ready to use and customizable No Kid Hungry resources– in both English and Spanish– to use in your district

This toolkit can be used to best meet your district’s needs– you can download and customize the resources; apply the guidance for connecting with families; and/or get inspired by the examples included from other districts.

Checklist: How to Maximize the Return of FRP Applications

This toolkit is organized in a checklist format. To jump to a particular section, click on the hyperlinks below ⬇️

NOTE: Examples were collected over time and may reflect information that is no longer relevant (e.g., loss of additional reimbursement from the Keep Kids Fed Act during the 2022-2023 school year).

1. Examine Your Direct Certification Numbers

2. Reach Out to Families



3. Communicate in Different Ways

4. Share Information About SNAP

5. Ensure Applications are Accessible and Equitable

6. Consider Renaming the Application

7. Include a Deadline for Completion

8. Get Teachers and Principals Involved

9. Celebrate Completing and Submitting the Form

10. Celebrate Yourself

✔️ Checklist: How to Maximize the Return of FRP Applications

1. Examine Your Direct Certification Numbers

Before you begin planning your communication strategy to families, examine your direct certification numbers. Start by checking how many students are categorically eligible for free school meals in your district and include them in your Identified Student Percentage (ISP). For instance, students enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), and in some states Medicaid, are all eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, and therefore families do not have to fill out FRP forms. It's important to verify students believed to qualify for direct certification because errors like misspelled names or incorrect birthdates mean some children are missing from the state direct certification system that are eligible. Improving your direct certification numbers will lessen the paperwork families in the district have to fill out and reduce administrative burden for districts. If your ISP is at least 40%, consider using the Community Eligibility Provision to provide free breakfast and lunch to all of your students. Learn more about your options.

Helpful Resources:

2. Reach Out to Families

Below are suggestions on what kinds of messaging might be helpful for families:

Free & reduced-price meal applications may offer benefits to families beyond school meals.

In addition to bringing funding into the district, FRP applications may unlock benefits for families like waived college admissions test fees, bus passes, and reduced-price internet services. Be sure to check with your state agency to confirm which benefits are available to qualified families in your state. Knowing that these benefits are offered may incentivize families to submit completed applications. If your state does not offer benefits to qualified families, messaging to families can focus on the benefits schools receive as part of the FRP application process, such as education and technology funding.

The following tools are customizable and designed to help families understand the value in submitting FRP applications for their children.

CUSTOMIZABLE No Kid Hungry Resources (in English and Spanish):

Customizable Letter/FAQs to Households from USDA


Social Media Graphics and Fliers: Here are examples of social media graphics and flyers that districts have used to communicate to families.

1. Frisco Independent School District, Frisco, TX | 2. Columbia County School District, Evans, GA | 3. Atlanta Public Schools, Atlanta, GA


Orange County Public Schools, Orlando, FL

3. Communicate in Different Ways

Embrace a variety of channels and opportunities to connect with families about free and reduced-price meal applications. Please check with your state agency before conducting outreach to ensure you are not violating any policies that prohibit districts from engaging in the following activities.

  • Back to school events, open houses, county fairs, etc. - Have a booth and computers available so families can fill out the forms, along with staff or volunteers who can help families with the online process. Have translators present for parents/caregivers who speak languages other than English.
  • Back to school newsletters and packets - Send information and flyers home to families multiple times to ensure families receive the information.
  • Include the FRP form in the back to school orientation packet - This is particularly helpful if parents/caregivers are already accustomed to filling out forms included in this packet.
  • Summer programming - Include information about any changes to school meals and FRP forms in summer programming activities so families are aware of the changes coming to their child’s school meals, as well as the opportunity to complete a FRP form.
  • Email blasts - Send emails to families about the importance of completing the FRP form, along with a link to the online form. Sending emails on Sunday night can be a great way for parents/caretakers to see the email first thing Monday morning.
  • Local TV and radio - Advertise on local TV and radio stations as another way to reach families.
  • Billboards - Advertise the value of filling out the FRP form, and note if the district has a deadline for submission.
  • District staff – Engage a variety of district staff to promote the FRP forms via their personal social media accounts to reach more families.
  • Robocalls – Calling families directly can be an effective way to get the message across.

Be sure to look at your communications through an equity lens. Consider how different communities prefer to receive information. If you aren’t sure, connect with a local church or non-profit that serves the community. Going beyond the school to connect with families can improve outreach efforts and lead to increased application submission.

4. Share Information About SNAP and Medicaid

Communicating about FRP applications is also an opportunity to share about resources that families could be eligible to receive. Families that submit an application and qualify for free school meals (and sometimes reduced-price school meals) could be eligible for SNAP and/or Medicaid. Increasing participation in these programs increases the number of students who are directly certified for school meals, helping school nutrition finances while alleviating administrative burden. Incorporating SNAP and Medicaid information into your FRP applications communication efforts is a great way to ensure families know about food resources available to them.


  • Include information about SNAP when sharing about FRP applications through flyers, robocalls or text. Include a link to an eligibility screener and referral information for local organizations that provide SNAP application assistance - many states have a website of providers in your area.
  • Add a SNAP button to your school’s website or nutrition webpage that links to your state’s online application.
  • Include a check-box on your FRP application that allows families to mark if they’re interested in learning more about SNAP and consent to being contacted by a local outreach provider or SNAP agency. (Example from California)
  • Invite a local SNAP outreach and assistance partner to back-to-school events.


  • USDA has been operating a demonstration project for direct certification with Medicaid (DC-M) since the 2012-2013 school year.
  • States must apply to participate in the DC-M demonstration project when USDA makes applications available. To see the list of states currently participating in DC-M, visit the USDA's website.
  • Include Medicaid outreach with your SNAP outreach. According to a recent landscape analysis conducted by Code for America, many states allow households to apply for both SNAP and Medicaid through a single application rather than through two separate applications.
  • During the 2023-2024 school year, states will be engaging in Medicaid "unwinding," the process of removing the flexibilities for Medicaid enrollment and continuous coverage made available during the pandemic. An estimated 5 million children are projected to lose Medicaid coverage during the unwinding process. Schools can utilize ready-to-use and customizable outreach resources made available through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to help households maintain Medicaid coverage.

Helpful Resources:

5. Ensure Applications are Accessible and Equitable

  • Ensure FRP applications and instructions are available in the primary languages spoken by parents/caregivers in your school community, and at an appropriate reading level. Visit USDA’s Translated Languages webpage for more support.
  • Provide clear instructions on how to fill out the application, including instructions for families with multiple children, foster families, immigrant families, and families receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).
  • Communicate about the FRP application through a variety of channels including via social media, on the school website, during back-to-school nights, via flyers sent home to parents, etc.
  • Provide multiple ways to complete and submit the application including online and paper.
  • Offer electronic submission, which can reduce errors. Paper applications can be hard to read and may not be completed correctly.

For more detailed information, visit USDA’s webpage Ensuring Access to Free and Reduced Price School Meals for Low-Income Students

6. Consider Renaming the Application

Sometimes a name change can make a difference in terms of perception and application submission. Families may not associate the name of the application, whether it be “School Meals Application” or “Free and Reduced-Price Meal Form”, with all of the great benefits that come along with it. Keep in mind that your state agency will need to approve any name change you wish to make. Some name examples from districts across the country include:

  • Education Benefit Form/Application
  • Meal Benefits Form/Application
  • Educational Benefits Form/ Application
  • Benefits Application
  • Application for Educational Benefits
  • Meal Price Benefit Application
  • School Meals Application
  • Meal Eligibility Application
  • Multipurpose Family Income Form

7. Include a Deadline for Completion

If there is a deadline for completion, be sure to include this information and inform families as to why the deadline exists.

8. Get Teachers and Principals Involved

Educate teachers about why FRP forms are so important and involve teachers in the communication to families. Families tend to view teachers as trusted stakeholders within the school system. Therefore, having teachers promote FRP forms could be helpful in increasing awareness of the forms, and therefore getting more families to submit completed forms. Train principals on how to complete online applications so they can be a support person for families who need assistance with the online process.

9. Celebrate Completing and Submitting the Form

It’s important to bring a celebratory aspect to this process, rather than it feeling like a chore. Offering a celebration to students can help remind them to chat with their parents/caretakers about filling out the forms. For example, if all students in a classroom submit their FRP applications, the class will have a smoothie party or a pizza party. Utilize social media to advertise rewards for families that submit the FRP form.

Some state agencies have policies that prohibit districts from incentivizing completing a FRP form. Please check with your state agency for clarification.


Lotus School, Aurora, CO

10. Celebrate yourself!

Each school year brings its own set of challenges, and it’s important to honor and celebrate all the work you do to keep your students fed and keep the meal programs running. You are essential, and we celebrate you! If you’d like to share outreach examples with No Kid Hungry, please email bestpractices@strength.org. For even more resources, visit No Kid Hungry’s Center for Best Practices website.