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National School Lunch Program

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. The program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946.

Each year at the beginning of school, letters must be distributed to the households of children attending the school. This letter tells families which school nutrition programs are available and that meals may be available free, at a reduced price, or that milk may be available free.

Children that are automatically eligible under the NSLP can fall in any one of these categories: Enrollment in a Head Start or Even Start program, a homeless child (determination varies), a member of the household receiving food stamps, a runaway child (determination varies) and a migrant child. Direct certification will be needed in all categories.

Children that are eligible under the income guidelines are determined by the household size and income levels prescibed annually by the Secretary of Agriculture. Determination is for free or reduced price meals and for free milk.

At any time during the school year eligibility may change, due to family or financial circumstances. Enrolling in the program can be processed throughout the school year.

The school meals program are administered at the Federal level by the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At the state level, the programs are administered by the State agency designated in each individual state.


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