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School Meal Eligibility

School Meal Eligibility is determined at the district level by households completing a free or reduced-price application; households can also be automatically eligible for free school meals through direct certification. Qualifying students as eligible for free or low-cost school meals helps to increase access to healthy meals, which supports their health and academic performance. Find more specific information regarding school meal eligibility below.

Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT)

The P-EBT program was created as part of the U.S. government response to the COVID-19 epidemic. P-EBT benefits are intended for school-age children who would have received a free or reduced-price school meal during the time that schools were closed during the 2019-20 school year as well as the current 2020-21 school year.

For more detailed information visit: Colorado Department of Human Services P-EBT Frequently Asked Questions website

Resources for families

CDHS, the Colorado Department of Education, schools and community organizations are working together to ensure that all youth (18 and under) have nutritious meals during the pandemic. Families are encouraged to consider the following resources during this time. 

  • Locate your local community meal sites: Find no-cost meal sites (for youth 18 and under) near you by contacting your school or visiting
  • Fill out a school meal application: Your household’s free and reduced-price lunch program (school meals) application can help your family access discounted internet and phone costs and secure additional funds for your school. Get an application at your school or district office or visit your school website for more information. If your household qualifies for school meals, you might also qualify for P-EBT.
  • Additional pandemic resources: Food pantries and other programs (like WIC) offer free food, meals, nutrition support, and more. Visit to learn more!

P-EBT Mini Grant Resources:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced there will be funding for School Year 2021-22 mini grants. More details to come.

P-EBT Training

Direct Certification (DC)

Direct Certification uses approved assistance program data to automatically approve eligible students for free school meals. Colorado uses an automated online system to directly certify households that participate in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the Migrant Education Program.


District Liaisons For:


Legislation requires each district to have a child welfare liaison (CWEL), a McKinney Vento/Homeless liaison and a regional Migrant liaison. Liaisons are responsible for identifying and documenting children who qualify for the listed assistance programs. Children identified in these programs are automatically eligible for free school meals. 

Free and Reduced-Price (F&R) Application Guidance

The free and reduced-price application determines school meal eligibility based on reported information including household size and income or participation in approved assistance programs.



Income Verification Guidance

Verification is the process of confirming free or reduced-price meal eligibility based on income and/or assistance program information provided on applications.


For more information or if an alternative version of a document is needed, please contact free& or call 303-503-2353.