National School Lunch Program
Numerous scientific studies have suggested a strong link between child
nutrition and learning in school. This supports the importance of the
availability of school meals programs in improving the educational performance
of our children.
Every school day the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) serves nutritious
meals to more than 29.6 million children nationwide. Pennsylvania served more than
168 million school lunches during the 2018-19 school year. These healthy meals
enhance our children's readiness to learn.
How does it work?
The NSLP is a federal and state reimbursement
program for each meal served that meets federal requirements. All NSLP sponsors
are required to offer free and reduced-price lunches to eligible children.
Reimbursement rates are established annually by the United States Department of
Agriculture (USDA). Sponsors are entitled to receive USDA commodities for each
lunch they serve. The variety of commodities sponsors may receive depends on
product availability and market prices.
Who may participate?
Any public school, intermediate unit, charter
school, area vocational technical or career technology school, public
residential child care institution, and tax exempt non-public school or
residential child care institution may apply to be an NSLP sponsor.
How do children qualify for free or reduced-price lunches ?
Children from families with incomes at or below 130% of the poverty level,
and children in families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
(TANF) and children in families receiving food stamp benefits are eligible for
free lunches. Children in families whose income is between 130% and 185% of the
poverty level are eligible for reduced price lunches.
What are the meal requirements?
qualify for reimbursement, all NSLP lunches must meet federal nutrition
requirements. School lunches must offer foods from the five required
components that include whole or enriched grain, fruit, vegetable,
meat/meat alternate, and fluid milk. Serving sizes vary based on the
grade level of the students. Decisions about the specific foods to serve
and the methods of preparation are made by local school food
More information may be found on the USDA National School Lunch Fact SheetOpens In A New Window