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Apply for Free and Reduced Meals (FARMs)

The HCPSS participates in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. Students from households that meet federal income guidelines are eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals. Those eligible for reduced-price meals pay $0.30 for breakfast and $0.40 for lunch.

How to Apply

Please submit only one application per household. Families that need computer or language assistance to apply online, please contact your child’s school.

View the federal income eligibility guidelines.


Apply Now

  • The online application is now available in Spanish.
  • After the online application has been submitted and reviewed, eligibility notifications will be sent via email/mail.

By mail

Paper applications are sent home with students on the first day of school. Paper applications can also be picked up in the Food and Nutrition Service Office (5451 Beaverkill Rd, Columbia, MD 21044).

Applications can be returned to your child’s school or mailed to the Food and Nutrition Service Office:

HCPSS Food & Nutrition Service Office
10910 Clarksville Pike
Ellicott City, MD 21042

Families must submit a new application every school year

During the first 30 school days, students with free and reduced-price meal eligibility from the prior school year will be carried over.

Any student who has not filled out an application up to the 30th school day will have their prior year status changed to full pay status until a new application is received. Parents / guardians are highly encouraged to fill out the applications as soon as possible. Also, it is very important that applications are filled out correctly.

Did you get a direct certification letter?

Based on monthly information from the Department of Social Services, some students are directly certified to receive free breakfast and lunch meals without submitting an application.

If families receive a direct certification letter in the mail/email, families do not have to fill out a free and reduced-price meal form for the school year.

All other students who did not receive a Direct Certification letter must fill out a new form.


If you have additional questions regarding the FARMs program, please review our FAQ Section or call 410-313-6743.

2016-2017 Income Eligibility Guidelines

Household Size: 1

Year: $21,978

Month: $1,832

Week: $423

Household Size: 2

Year: $29,637

Month: $2,470

Week: $570

Household Size: 3

Year: $37,296

Month: $3,108

Week: $718

Household Size: 4

Year: $44,955

Month: $3,747

Week: $865

Household Size: 5

Year: $52,614

Month: $4,385

Week: $1,012

Household Size: 6

Year: $60,273

Month: $5,023

Week: $1,160

Household Size: 7

Year: $67,951

Month: $5,663

Week: $1,307

Household Size: 8

Year: $75,647

Month: $6,304

Week: $1,455

For each additional family member add:

Year: + $7,696

Month: + $642

Week: + $148

Frequently Asked Questions

I would like to apply for the FARMs Program, but am concerned that my student may get embarrassed if the teachers or other students learn that we need assistance. How can this be avoided?

We keep student/family FARMs eligibility confidential. We will not discuss student eligibility with anyone except students, parents, guardians and cafeteria managers. School lunch lines are designed to maintain confidentiality by using student rosters. By using this system, students do not know if a classmate’s lunch was pre-paid, free or reduced price.

May I submit just one FARMs application for all of my children?

Yes. This is a family/household application and all children must be listed on one application whether you complete a paper application or submit an online application.

My student was eligible for free meals last year. Do I need to apply this year?

Yes. Families must apply every year to determine their eligibility in the FARMs program. Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines change every year, and it is likely that most household situations change each year. To avoid interruption in meal benefits while new applications are processed, student eligibility is carried over temporarily from the previous school year until the new application can be processed in September of the new school year. Once the new application is processed, the eligibility that is determined will be in effect. Carryover applications not renewed will be terminated at the end of September and all benefits will cease.

When can I apply?

Students or families may apply any time during the school year.

My child brought home a FARMs Program Application and said I must complete and return it to school. Are all families/households required to fill out the application?

No. All families/households are not required to fill out the application. Only families/households who need assistance and fall within the federal Income Eligibility Guidelines should apply. Applications are automatically sent home with every student on the first day of school. Guidelines are printed on the front of the application to help parents/guardians determine if they might qualify for the program.

Why was my student’s application determined to not be eligible for the FARMs program?

Applications are evaluated solely on the number of household members and gross income – no other circumstances can be considered. If you believe your gross income (amount before deductions) is at or less than the maximum income limits for your household size that is listed in the Income Eligibility Guidelines, you should contact the Food and Nutrition Service Office to be certain that you have completed your application correctly.

My family situation has changed. Can I reapply to the FARMs program?

Yes. Families whose household situations change may reapply at any time during the school year.

I lost my copy of the FARMs eligibility notice I received. How can I obtain a copy so that I can apply for other benefits?

Eligibility notices should be kept for the entire school year in order to apply for additional benefits. Call the Food and Nutrition Service Office at 410-313-7134 to request a copy.