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Free/Reduced-Price Meal Pilot Program

The Washington State Legislature passed into law Second Substitute House Bill 1559 (2023). Sponsored by Representative Debra Entenman, this legislation includes a new three-year pilot to provide free and low-cost meal plans or food vouchers to eligible low-income students. Four community and technical colleges, one on each side of the Cascade mountains, will be selected to participate by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC).

Additionally, the bill includes two public four-year institutions, one of each side of the Cascade mountains, to be selected to participate by the Council of Presidents.  

Who may apply

This will be a competitive program application and funding process. All community and technical colleges are encouraged to apply for funding. The SBCTC will convene a committee to evaluate applications to determine, based on student need and program approach, who will be selected to receive funding. 


Funding is appropriated to the SBCTC at $960,000 annually for FY24-FY26. 

For the FY24 program year, colleges may request up to $240,000. Selected colleges will have their budgets automatically renewed for FY25 without additional application. Legislation authorized the pilot through FY26. Amounts available for the third year will be based on appropriations.

Allowable expenses can include, but are not limited to: 

  • Free or reduced-price food vouchers, pre-paid meal cards, access to free or reduced-price food or similar
  • Staffing for program design and implementation

The intent of this funding is to implement a free and/or low-cost food program for students with low incomes. Staffing salaries and benefits to design and implement these services for students in these populations are an allowable expenditure but capped at 20%. 

Indirect costs will not be an allowable expenditure. 

Strategic Planning

FY24 will be focused on the planning and development of the selected colleges program approach. The SBCTC will work with the cohort of colleges and universities to support their implementation of the meal pilot program. 

FY25 will be focused on full implementation and access to free and/or reduced-price meals for students. The SBCTC will work with a cohort of colleges and universities to share and learn from each other in a community of practice and understand the inner workings of the pilot programs, and challenges that students may face with accessing food. 

FY26 will be focused on the final year of funding and reporting. The SBCTC will work with a cohort of colleges and universities on identifying data elements, developing, and supporting recommendations for the Washington State Legislature. 

Milestones and Deadlines

Milestone Dates (subject to change)
Applications available June 20, 2023
Applications due July 14, 2023
Applicants notified of approval status August 4, 2023
Allocations available August 2023


Jennifer Dellinger
Policy Associate, Student Services–Student Support Programs


Program Resources and Guidelines

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Last Modified: 3/12/24, 12:13 PM

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