The Food and Nutrition Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers several child nutrition programs. One of the most well-known of these is the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), administered through state agencies for reimbursing schools that provide healthy meals to children. In order to qualify as a federally reimbursable school lunch, meals must meet specific guidelines:
- They must provide a variety of foods that meet the recommendation of The Dietary Guidelines/MyPlate and the Healthy Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010.
- They must contain one-third of children’s daily needs for “specific nutrients” — protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium.
- They must limit saturated fat to 10 percent of calories when averaged over the course of a week.
- Schools must offer a variety of milk options, including fat-free and low-fat milk. Schools can also offer fat free flavored milk and lactose-reduced low fat milk.
Thus, the NSLP provides nutritious meals with a variety of options to the children at school. It is a convenient method of providing healthy and nutritionally balanced lunch. Finally, for many children who may not have access to nutritional meals, the school lunch program not only provides these healthy meal options but also enhances children’s learning abilities by contributing to their physical and mental well-being.
Bidisha Mandal, Washington State University School of Economic Sciences
California Department of Education – National School Lunch program
Fuel Up to Play 60 – Nutrition Education Resources
USDA Food and Nutrition Service – National School Lunch Program