Pennsylvania Department of Human Services FAQs

Are there separate applications for the School Breakfast Program (SBP), National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) in Pennsylvania?

No. These programs share a single application form that may be completed either on paper or online. This single form will determine your child’s eligibility for free or reduced-price meals for all three programs.

Where can I find these application forms?

Paper application forms are provided by your selected institution at the beginning of each academic year. If you did not receive one at this time or have misplaced it, you can request a new one at any time during the school year.

Do all eligible Pennsylvania institutions provide online applications?

No. Given that this is a relatively new online application for free and reduced-price meals, not all locations have been required to offer it. Rather, it is optional to adopt, and institutions must request the online application.

Do all Pennsylvanian recipients of school meals need to complete this application?

No. Some potential recipients may be automatically eligible to receive benefits. These candidates must be participating in at least one qualifying welfare program, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

How do I know if my children qualify under one of these statuses?

If your household lacks a permanent address, such as those families staying at shelters, hotels or other temporary accommodations, this may qualify the child as homeless. Additionally, children who come into your care as either migrants or fosters will have documentation denoting them as such. Lastly, if any child living with you has elected to leave their previous household, he or she may be classified as a runaway.

Do I need to complete an application for each individual child?

No. In the state of Pennsylvania, the application for free or reduced-price meals allows for the parent or guardian to list multiple children on a single form.

Do I need to complete an application every year?

Yes. Your application for free and reduced-price lunch is only valid for the school year it is submitted for. This is because as your household income changes, your child’s need status will change.

Can I apply again if I do not qualify the first time?

Yes. You may submit an application at any time during the school year. This is a good benefit for those children of parents or guardians who become unemployed or have recently fallen below the income limit.

What if some household members do not have income?

You can mark their income as a zero on the form. Note that leaving a response blank will cause the organization reviewing your application to default the value to zero.

Where is meal program food sourced from in Pennsylvania?

The food used by school meal programs is sourced from federal and state agencies, which then prepare it to federal standards. However, as in the case of the NSLP, programs like the Pennsylvania Farm to School program may provide fresh produce to local schools when surpluses are available.

If I receive Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits, will my children be eligible for free meals in Pennsylvania?

Not always. You must submit an application and provide your WIC case number to see if it will be approved. WIC is not an automatically qualified program.

Does the Pennsylvania Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program provide job search assistance?

Yes. Pennsylvania TANF offices encourage current recipients to work toward financial independence by securing long-term work. Your TANF caseworker will help you find a job, and the program provides other forms of job search assistance.

How do I find TANF-assisted jobs near me?

You can contact a caseworker at a local Pennsylvania assistance office, and he or she will work with you to uncover your work history, level of education, transportation options and child care arrangements to begin looking for a job.

Does TANF provide child care while I work or train?

Yes. The Pennsylvania TANF program has implemented the Child Care Works initiative, which assists TANF recipients in securing child care services and paying for it while working, training or going to school. Consult your caseworker to receive a direct number to reach the Child Care Works helpline.

Does Child Care Works only assist TANF families?

No. While Child Care Works primarily works with TANF families, once a family becomes financially independent, child care will still be available to you.

Does the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) work for people with disabilities?

es. If you are in a household made up of severely disabled or elderly people, SNAP benefits are available. This is provided that the group does not receive work income. Additionally, applicants should note that members of this household do not need to be related, as long as they purchase and prepare food together.

Can I obtain cash assistance using an ATM?

Yes. You may obtain cash benefits by using your Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Access Card at an ATM. You may also obtain cash by requesting cash back at participating retailers.

Do ATMs charge a fee for EBT cards?

Depending on the ATM you have selected, you may or may not be charged a fee. You may find charge-free ATMs using the official Pennsylvania government website. These ATMs will provide cashback free of charge to users of EBT cards.

What if my EBT card does not work?

If you are a current participant in the SNAP program in Pennsylvania and are having problems with your card or SNAP benefits, you may contact the EBT Recipient Hotline at 1-888-328-7366.

Who can submit the application for SNAP benefits?

Applications for SNAP benefits must be submitted by the head of the household or other responsible figure in the home. This may also be the spouse to the head of the household or a designated, authorized representative such as a friend, relative or other trusted person.

What Is the Division of Family and Children Services in Pennsylvania?

The state of Pennsylvania provides services for families and children who are most in need. The division provides resources for free and reduced lunch, food stamps and temporary cash assistance for needy families. To find out if you are eligible for these services, download our comprehensive guide to review the eligibility requirements for each program.

How Can I Apply for Assistance Through the Division of Family and Children Services?

In order to be considered for the benefit programs offered by the Division of Family and Children Services, you must submit an application via an approved method. Additionally, many of the services provided by the division have eligibility requirements that you must meet to obtain benefits. Learn all about the application processes for these programs by downloading our guide.