Orange County schools encourages all parents to apply for free, reduced meal program

7 out of 10 students in Orange County eligible to receive free school meals

Lora Gilbert with OCPS food and nutrition services explains the public school system's meal benefits program.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The Orange County school district is asking families to apply for its meal benefit program, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Parents have until Dec. 17 (pushed back from Sept. 22) to apply for the 2020-2021 academic year, officials said Tuesday.

With free and reduced meal benefits, all eligible children attending class through virtual or in-person learning can receive breakfast, lunch and, at select schools, dinner.

According to the district’s Food and Nutrition Services, seven out of 10 students in Orange County are eligible to receive free school meals.

“Some families may be relying on meal benefits for the first time ever due to pandemic-induced hardships, while others may forget to apply amidst the many decisions they’ve had to make recently,” said Lora Gilbert, senior director of the OCPS FNS.

Families must submit a new application every year to receive meal benefits. A student’s eligibility is determined by the total household income.

FNS says families can save $450-$1,479 per child per school year by receiving free or reduced-cost meals through the district.

In addition to meal benefits, families are eligible for reduced-cost Internet, utilities and summer camp, as well as free ACT and SAT testing.

The district says even if families believe they won’t be eligible to still apply as it helps the district receive valuable funding and resources.

Families can apply at The application takes roughly 15 minutes to 30 minutes to complete.