Since the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) was founded in 1946, school nutrition professionals have been providing America’s students with healthy, balanced school meals that help them succeed in the classroom and beyond.
Public and non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions that chose to participate in NSLP and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) are required to serve meals that meet federal nutrition standards and strict food safety standards.
School meal programs must also offer free or reduced price meals to eligible children and manage the application process for the free and reduced price program. In return for meeting NSLP requirements, the federal government reimburses schools a specified amount for each meal served.
School meal programs are self-sustaining, funded through federal reimbursements and sales revenue, and independent of school district education budgets. By law, school meal programs are required to operate as non-profit entities. Despite these limited budgets, school nutrition professionals have transformed school meals.
School meals offer a critical safety net for children from low-income families. In light of scientific research linking school meals and healthy diets to academic success, many schools have expanded their breakfast programs and launched summer meal, afterschool snack and supper programs to meet students’ nutritional needs.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service administers NSLP and SBP. At the state level, the programs typically are overseen by state education or agriculture departments, which operate the programs through agreements with local school districts or other school food authorities.
What we do in school nutrition