Food Assistance

Food Assistance Resources

free school mealsChildhood hunger is linked to academic struggles, difficulties focusing and concentrating, mental health disorders, and increased behavioral referrals. On average, a child will consume about one-third to one-half of their daily calories during the school day. School meals help close the nutrition gap that exists for low-income families and plays a critical role in youth dietary behaviors.
In Virginia 1.3 million students participate in the National School Lunch Program and 45.59% of our students are eligible for free or reduced price lunches. Research from the Northwestern Institute for Policy Research indicates that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic Virginia’s food insecurity rose 12.5% to 22.5% (or more than one in five people) during the April-May 2020 timeframe. 

The negative impacts of COVID-19 – on school schedules, school budgets, employment, the economy, and food insecurity – will be long-lasting, and will not end when the calendar year ends. As child hunger grows, it’s important to connect families with food assistance programs.


PTA has a long history of advocating for access to healthy meals for children. PTA advocacy resulted in the introduction of hot school lunches, and in 2021 our nationwide advocacy resulted in free school meals through the 2020 and 2021 school years. Federally, PTA is advocating for universal free school meals and funding to expand scratch-cooked meals. State legislation that Virginia PTA advocated for in 2021 expanded access to free after-school meals, reduced school lunch debt, and supported programs that increase locally grown foods in school cafeterias. Local school PTAs are working to introduce families to school meals through family tasting nights, building partnerships with local food banks, and advocating at the school board level for healthy meals. 

Nutrition Assistance Resources in Virginia

To support safe re-opening of schools, and to ensure all children continue to have access to healthy free meals, children ages 18 and under may receive free nutritious meals at school and childcare day care facilities through — June 30, 2022

The School Lunch Program does not require an individual to be a citizen or qualified alien. Immigration and refugee status is not collected as part of the application for free/reduced meals and it is illegal for the school nutrition office to share information from the school meal application without written consent from the parent/guardian.
To find meal locations families may:
? Check with their local school division
? Use the online School Meal Finder website 
? Text “food” or “comida” to 877-877 to receive a list of nearby feeding centers.
?Text “Summer Meals” to 97779 or call 1-866-348-6479 to find a school meal site near you