In 1946, US Congress authorized the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). This federal child nutrition program funds a nutritionally balanced lunch in public and/or private schools throughout the nation. Meals are served for free or at reduced-price to certain qualifying students.
At the federal level, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the NSLP. In New York State, the State Education Department (SED) administers the program to local school districts.
In order for schools to participate in the NSLP and receive reimbursement, each meal served must meet the USDA’s nutritional guidelines. While lunches must meet these guidelines, local school food service authorities are allowed to make decisions about menu items and how food is prepared. Schools are reimbursed for meal costs based on number of meals served.
In order for students to qualify for a free or reduced-price meal, eligibility is based on household income. To receive a free lunch, the child must live in a household with an income at or below 130% of the federal poverty level. For a reduced-price lunch (25 cents in NYS), the child must live in a household with an income between 130% and 185% of poverty. Children from households with over 185% poverty may eat the same meal for a price determined by the school.
Children from low-income families that meet income guidelines can eat a nutritious meal for free or reduced-price. Meal components include: milk, meat or meat alternative, 2 servings fruit or vegetables, bread/grains.
The NSLP is a federal entitlement program. Therefore, federal reimbursement is provided to all schools that apply and meet the program’s eligibility criteria. SED administers reimbursement money to participating schools.
How to Apply:
Applications for free and reduced-priced meals are mailed to households at the beginning of each school year and are available from the school throughout the rest of the school year. The same application qualifies students for both breakfast and lunch. Students from households that receive food stamps and/or TANF may submit a direct certification letter to schools instead of an application.
For More Information About the NSLP: