The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a meal program that is federally assisted. Its main purpose is to provide low-cost and free lunches to the children in non-profit, private and public schools along with institutions of residential care every day.
This free lunch program was initiated in 1964, under the National School Lunch Act, which was signed by Harry Truman, the then President. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for ensuring that across the country along with financial assistance to the lunch programs, children are getting nutritious food.
Main goals of the program
To support improved outcomes at the educational institutes, the program intends to target the nutritional outcome. Hence, for this nutrition program, if a child eats healthy, s/he will be more capable to perform well at school. Health comes from highly nutritious food, and this is why this school meal program is highly and strictly monitored by both parties; the state and the federal government.
It is thoroughly ensured that the food provided to the pupils meets the dietary guidelines. By consuming one-third of their calories in school, the students participating in this program are able to limit themselves from consuming “empty calories.” Such free lunch programs are designed to fulfil the nutritional needs of the students.
The challenges it had to face throughout the years
Identifying low-income students and then achieving full participation is a big deal to tackle and the program had to face these obstacles and challenges. It is required by the schools and the districts to mutually work and find out the students with families who are in dire need of this program.
They must communicate and find ways to ensure that the eligible students get their parents to do the paperwork. It will make the work easier for both; the students as well as the administration because this is the best opportunity for the students who failed to register themselves in any other North Carolina-based lunch and breakfast programs.
The free lunch program or subsidized lunch program as one may call it, aims to ensure maximum participation from children, and once they have enrolled, they should continue to take part in it. However, the districts and schools might find it challenging to convince older students to participate in it again and to identify the pupils coming from low-income groups. It was a major concern while it was observed that the non-US citizen parents were hesitant in permitting their children from participating in this initiative. However, it was decided that citizenship was not a requirement for it, but the cultural and language barriers could have played their roles in limiting parents from allowing their children to participate.
Who can participate?
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is the second-largest food and nutrition assistance program in the country. According to the program, any school student is eligible for this; regardless of his/her household income. Moreover, if a child comes from a household with incomes at or below 130 percent of poverty, he or she will be getting free lunches. Moreover, this free lunch program includes money concessions for those children who belong to households with incomes between 130 and 185 percent of poverty.
In FY 2019, it was observed that through this program, 5 million lunches were served to the needy children, among which around three-quarters of them were free of cost or were sold at reduced prices. Moreover, an ERS- sponsored research revealed that as compared to other children, the ones coming from financially unstable households who were unable to afford healthy food were more likely to receive a full nutritious meal from the lunch they had at school.
Other than poverty, which factors are considered while registering a child in this program?
If a child’s family members prove that their income level is under the eligibility criteria or are participants of CalFresh or CalWORKs, then that child will be eligible for a reduced-price or free meal. Other than this main factor, other characteristics like school grade range, school size, district size, and the share of the district population that is foreign-born are also contemplated. Automatically, the children from schools in districts with high poverty rates tend to participate the most in this program. The fact that this program is playing a huge role in decreasing the poverty rate in Carolina, however, the districts in wealthier areas should be a helping hand for smaller populations of low-income students.
What is required for the application of this program?
There is good news for SNAP and CA receiving families: you do not have to fill the application form and submit it, because you are already registered by the determining official via direct certification.
SNAP was previously known as a program of food stamps and is known as Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) in Carolina. Also, the CA program was initially known to be called “Temporary Assistance to Needy Families” (TANF).
The state considers its duty to provide food to the foster children, and hence regardless of the financial status of their family, they are eligible to get free meals. However, regardless of the important factors that the criteria include, it is made sure by the state and other responsible bodies to make the application forms available to every household. The school, school nutrition offices within the school district, charter school, non-public school, and even the organizations participating in this program are all the places where you can submit your application form after filling it with the required information. The application requires the signature of a household adult to consider the child to be a part of the program. Moreover, you need to mention the name of all the house members, the amount each one of you receives from your job, also the source of your income, and lastly the last four digits of the social security number of the adult who signs the application.