The National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), and BackPack Program are three important initiatives in the United States to help schools fight against childhood hunger and provide low-income children with nutritious meals.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, over 13 million children in America live in households that struggle with hunger. That’s 1 in 5 children who are facing food insecurity and go home to no meals or insufficient meals each day.
If you’re wondering how to get free food for your kids at school, aftercare or daycare, continue reading below.
National School Lunch Program
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP), which was introduced in 1946, is a federal program that provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children enrolled in schools that participate in the program.
It is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is designed to ensure that all students have access to healthy meals regardless of their family’s financial situation.
The NSLP provides free or reduced-price meals to students from households who meet income guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Families can usually qualify for free meals if their household income is at or below 130 percent of the poverty level, and for reduced-price meals if their household income is between 130 and 185 percent of the poverty level.
The program aims to provide nutritionally balanced meals consisting of things like:
- Lean proteins.
- Whole grains.
- Low-fat or fat-free milk.
The program offers foods that meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as well as meal pattern requirements established by the USDA. For example, meals must generally include at least one vegetable and a fruit at every meal.
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is open to low-income students enrolled in schools that participate in the program.
To apply, families can complete an application form and submit it to their local school district office.
In most cases, schools send home applications in the beginning of the school year. However, families can apply any time throughout the year by contacting their school district.
Note that if you receive SNAP or TANF benefits, your children can automatically qualify to receive free lunch at school.
School Breakfast Program
The School Breakfast Program (SBP) was established in 1966 to provide nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free breakfasts at schools that choose to participate.
The goal is to ensure children are well-nourished and ready to learn in the morning by providing the energy they need for their activities throughout the day.
To participate, eligible households must generally have an annual income of 130% or less than the federal poverty level to receive a free meal and between 130% and 185% below the poverty line in order to get reduced priced meals.
Families who wish to find a school breakfast program for their children can do so by checking with the local school district. Many schools across the United States participate in the School Breakfast Program (SBP), which can make it easier for families to access the program.
To apply, families can submit an application form, which is usually distributed at the beginning of every school year in classrooms throughout the district.
However, if you need to apply throughout the year, contact your school district for more information about applying.
Families who participate in federal assistance programs like SNAP or TANF can automatically qualify for the SBP.