FREE FOOD AND MILK PROGRAMS FOR CHILDREN
Affordable Care Act applicants and other residents in Texas may benefit from food and milk programs for pre-school age and school age children. Here are a descriptions of some helpful programs administered by the Texas Department of Agriculture.
Texas Special Milk Program (SMP): This program subsidizes the cost of half-pints of milk, which are served free of cost to students attending Texas public schools, nonprofit private schools, summer camps and childcare centers. In order to qualify for the Texas SMP, children must come from households with a limited total income. Household income maximum depends on the number of members in the child’s household but cannot exceed 130 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Currently, the maximum annual income for a family of four is $31, 590. A family of eight is required to demonstrate an annual income that does not exceed $53,157.
National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in Texas: The NSLP in Texas provides healthy and nutritious free school lunches to over three million school-age children in Texas. The income eligibility guidelines for participation in the Texas NSLP are the same as those for the Texas SMP. Additionally, some households that do not qualify for free school lunch may qualify for a reduced-cost lunch. For example, a family of four with a total annual income that is less than $44,955 can qualify for reduced-cost lunch through the NSLP.
Texas School Breakfast Program (SBP): This program subsidizes the cost of breakfast for 1.5 million children in Texas schools and nonprofit childcare programs. The state of Texas requires any qualifying institution to administer the SBP program if 10 percent or more of its student population is eligible for participation in the program. The household income maximums for both free and reduced lunch under the Texas SBP are the same as the income maximums for participation in the NSLP. Additionally, Texas law requires any institution with at least 80 percent participation in the NSLP to offer free breakfast to its entire student population.
Texas Summer Food Service Program (SFSP): In the SFSP, the Texas Department of Agriculture contracts with sponsors to provide free or reduced-cost meals at a “meal site” such as a school, camp, government entity or non-profit organization, so that children from low-income families can continue to eat suitable, nutritious meals when school is out. The Texas SFSP requires the same income eligibility guidelines as the NSLP and SBP.
Texas Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP): The Texas CACFP program provides over 400,000 nutritionally rich meals daily to adults and children in Texas childcare facilities and adult day care centers. The Texas Department of Agriculture reimburses part of the cost of meals to these participating facilities. Additionally, the program aims to cultivate nutritional awareness and healthy eating habits among its beneficiaries. Recent updates to the CACFP nutrition standard guidelines will require meals served through CACFP to have more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and less sugar and saturated fat. The income eligibility guidelines for participation in CACFP are the same as the guidelines for the SFSP, SBP and NSLP.