School Nutrition Frequently Asked Questions

  • Durham Public Schools School Nutrition Services (SNS) would like to welcome you to the 2023-2024 school year! Read below for answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about school meals. For additional FAQs and more information, visit the School Nutrition Services section of the DPS website. If you have any additional questions, please contact School Nutrition Services at (919) 560-2370.  

    Paying for School Meals:

    • Why should all families fill out the Free/Reduced Meal application? 

    Many students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. Filling out the Free/Reduced Meal application determines whether your child is eligible and could help your school receive extra federal money. Your children do not have to be US citizens to receive free and reduced lunch.  Please turn in the application to your child’s school. You can get the application at school, print it out online, or submit the application online. Find the online application at 

    • What is a universal free breakfast? 

    All DPS students can eat free breakfast at school even if they are not eligible for free lunch. 

    • How do I pay for my student’s lunches?  

    You can pay for meals at the cash register in the cafeteria, or you can pay online. There may be an extra fee to pay online. To pay online, go to You will need your child’s student ID number, also known as the PowerSchool ID. 

    If your child’s school meal account is overdrawn, you will get a note in your child’s folder or in the mail. If you want to receive an email or text letting you know when your student’s account is running out of money, log on to your payment center account. Go to “Manage Profile,” Click “Send  Low Balance Notification,” then choose how/where you would like to receive the notification  (email, text, both). 

    • Is it true that students who owe money must eat a different meal? 

    No. Students will be provided a regular reimbursable meal regardless of a student’s account status. 

Do I need to fill out an application for each child in my household?

    NO. Complete one application for all students and other family members living in your household.

    • Is my foster child included on the same application as my children?

    YES. Foster children should be included on the same application as the rest of your children and family members living in your household.

    • If I don’t qualify now, may I apply later?

    YES. You may apply at any time during the school year if your household size goes up, income goes down, or if you start getting Food Stamps, TANF, or other benefits.

    • Who should I include as members of my household?

    You should include yourself, your biological and foster children, and all other individuals living in your household, related or not (grandparents, relatives, or friends).

    • What do I do with the application for free and reduced meals once it is completed?

    You may return completed applications to the school office or the School Nutrition office for faster processing. The application can be dropped off or mailed to:

    Durham Public Schools
    School Nutrition Services
    1817 Hamlin Rd.
    Durham, NC 27704

    We are required to receive the original application for processing. We cannot accept applications by phone or fax.

    • I completed an application last year and was approved for benefits. Do I have to fill out another application?

    YES. The federal government requires a new application to be completed at the start of each new school year.

    Menu Selection:

    • Why is my child asked to take extra items if he/she doesn’t plan to eat them?

    Students must choose three of four items offered at breakfast and three of five items offered at lunch for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to consider it a complete meal. The USDA requires a complete meal to be taken in order for School Nutrition Services to receive reimbursement. It is also essential for children to take a full meal in order to meet recommended nutrient needs. 

    • Where can I find school meal menus?

    Go to the DPS School Nutrition website at  

    •  What is a school lunch? 

    The requirements for school meals are determined by the United States Department of Agriculture  (USDA). Meals include 5 components: (1) fruits, (2 vegetables, (3) grains, (4) meats/meat alternate (for protein), and (5) milk. The USDA has limits for sodium and fat but does not currently regulate sugar in meals.

    •  Why does my child have to order a full meal to get the free/reduced price?  

    The free/reduced price is for a complete “reimbursable” meal. DPS receives a reimbursement from the USDA for free and reduced meals only if the child gets all the required meal components. Students must select 3 out of 5 components, including one fruit or vegetable, for it to be considered a reimbursable meal. Your school nutrition staff will help students make healthy reimbursable selections every day. 

    • What food is served for breakfast?  

    Breakfast always has fruit or 100% fruit juice, dairy, and grain. All grains are whole grain-rich. 

    • Why don’t you offer more fresh foods and made-from-scratch meals?  

    Prepared foods are often served as part of school meals because of limited equipment, staff time, and funding. DPS School Nutrition is working hard to make more foods from scratch and improve the current recipes. 

    Dietary Restrictions:

    • What if my child has dietary restrictions/allergies? 

    DPS will make changes to meals if there are medically necessary dietary restrictions. Changes approved in IEPs will also be made. Changes because of religion or personal reasons will not be made. To request changes to your students’ meals:  

    -Print out the medical statement form found here

    -Parents/ guardians fill out part A. A medical doctor must fill out Part B. 

    -Turn the form into the child’s teacher, school nurse, or cafeteria manager. 

    -If your child is lactose intolerant or allergic to milk, you can fill out the milk substitution form 

    Other Topics 

    • What is the farm-to-school program?  

    The NC Farm to School program allows NC-grown food to be used in school meals and supports local farmers.  

    • Which schools offer Backpack Buddies and food pantries?  

    Backpack Buddies and school food pantries are not operated by DPS School Nutrition Services. Please contact your child’s school for more info. 

    •  Can I join my child for school meals?  

    Yes, parents may eat with their children. Please check with the school ahead of time. A parent's breakfast is $2.50; a parent's lunch is $4.50.