RELEASE: As pandemic-era meal operations end, NC families urged to submit free and reduced-price meal applications for the 2022-2023 school year

“Schools need families to fill out their meal forms in order to keep their programs strong for all kids this year,” said Andrew Harrell.

Contact: Tamara Baker,

9/3/2022, Chapel Hill, North Carolina: As kids head back to school for the 2022-2023 school year, one big change stands out: school meals are no longer free for all students in North Carolina. Yet, school meal programs will still play a crucial role in ensuring kids get three meals a day and have the nutrition they need to thrive in and out of the classroom. 

This year, school meal programs are returning to pre-pandemic systems. A major difference is that school meals will no longer be free for all students. In most instances, families will need to complete and submit an application to determine if their kids are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.

With inflation at a 40-year high and food and fuel prices soaring, many families are finding it harder to make ends meet. Luckily, school meal programs can play a big role in filling the gaps. They’re healthy–in fact, research shows that for many kids, the meals they eat at school are the most nutritionally balanced meals they get all day. They’re also convenient, and can save busy parents the work of having to prepare breakfast and lunch each day.

“Just like books or pencils, food is an important school supply, helping ensure kids are nourished and ready to learn,” said Andrew Harrell of No Kid Hungry North Carolina. “We want to be sure parents know that healthy school meals are available this year, but in order to receive them for free or at a reduced price, they’ll need to fill out a form with their school.” 

Some schools in North Carolina participate in the Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP, which makes school meals free for all students. Families with children attending CEP schools don’t need to submit an application for free or reduced-price school meals, although completing the form does have other benefits.

Submitting an application can mean so much more than just free or reduced-price school meals–completing that one form can result in discounted exam fees, waived college application fees, scholarship opportunities, and funding for classroom resources that will benefit all students.

Families should be sure to visit their school district’s website to fill out the school meal application or get a paper form from their school’s front office. After all, nutritious school meals are as important to students’ learning as notebooks and pencils.


About No Kid Hungry NC

No Kid Hungry North Carolina is a partnership launched in 2011 with the national nonprofit Share Our Strength and state leaders to connect children with under-utilized federal nutrition programs. It is working to end childhood hunger by helping launch and improve programs that give all kids the healthy food they need to thrive. No Kid Hungry NC became a part of the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in 2014, where it works in collaboration with the Carolina Hunger Initiative. Learn more at

About the Carolina Hunger Initiative

Our mission is to improve access to healthy meals year-round for North Carolinians. The Carolina Hunger Initiative is a project at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention working in collaboration with No Kid Hungry North Carolina, part of Share Our Strength’s national No Kid Hungry Campaign. We use programming, applied research, and compelling communications to support policy, systems, and environmental changes that connect people with the food they need. Learn more at