HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — Some students are getting their pens and pencils packed in their backpacks ahead of the first day of school Tuesday.

Chesapeake, Suffolk and Portsmouth are all heading back to class, and one of the most important things to check off your list is ensuring your kids have access to a healthy lunch.

More than 693,000 Virginia students qualify for free meals, and many parents don’t even know they’re eligible.

Healthy meals are an important school supply just like pencils, notebooks and textbooks, but with the price of food on the rise, it’s harder for families to pack those lunches than ever before. That’s why No Kid Hungry is making it easier to see if you qualify for free and reduced-priced meals at your child’s school.

As your kids are picking out their back-to-school outfits and making sure all the supplies are placed neatly in their bags, it’s important to think about what they’re eating for lunch.

In Virginia, about 9% of kids under 18 experience food insecurity and don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

“Inflation is still high and many hard working Virginia families are still struggling to get by, so we just want to ensure that families and caregivers are knowledgeable and know that school meals are a resource for them,” said No Kid Hungry Virginia Senior Program Manager Amy Biestek.

Biestek said for many kids, the meals they get at school are the most nutritionally-balanced meal they get per day.

In Hampton Roads, there are several CEP, or ‘Community Eligibility Provision’-participating school divisions, so many students in those qualify for free and reduced lunches, including those in Portsmouth, Suffolk, Norfolk, Newport News and Hampton.

In other school divisions, such as Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, not all schools are eligible, so parents must apply to see if they qualify.

“Being able for their children to access free meals at no cost is a huge burden relief for them,” Biestek said, “especially with school meal debt on the rise, inflation on the rise. The price of meals is so high, even I’m experiencing that.”

No Kid Hungry is making it easier than ever to find the links for your specific school, and even if you don’t qualify for the free and reduced price meals, the application could let you know if you qualify for other discounts.

“The application may qualify students for other resources too, such as reduced prices for extra curricular activities or reduced prices on exams, college application fees and it also may provide classroom specific resources for children, Biestek said.

Some students are automatically eligible for free meals if anyone in their household receives SNAP Benefits, or is on Medicaid.

If you’d like to fill out the application for your school, click here: