National School Lunch Program

To assist States, through cash grants and food donations, in providing a nutritious nonprofit lunch service for school children and to encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities.

Agency - Department of Agriculture

Established in 1862, the Department of Agriculture serves all Americans through anti-hunger efforts, stewardship of nearly 200 million acres of national forest and rangelands, and through product safety and conservation efforts. The USDA opens markets for American farmers and ranchers and provides food for needy people around the world.

Office - See Regional Agency Offices.

See the Food and Nutrition Service Regional Offices listed in Appendix IV of the Catalog.

Selected Recipients for this Program

RecipientAmount Start DateEnd Date
Education, Minnesota, Department Of $ 59,745,881   2020-10-012022-09-30
Commonwealth Of The Northern Mariana Islands $ 4,462,421   2020-10-012022-09-30
Baylor University $ 185,000,000   2020-04-012022-06-30
Agriculture, Texas Department Of $ 457,721,577   2020-10-012021-09-30
District Of Columbia, Government Of $ 10,591,927   2020-10-012021-09-30
Elementary And Secondary Education, Massachusetts Department Of $ 60,196,122   2020-10-012021-09-30
New Jersey Department Of Agriculture $ 96,093,299   2020-10-012021-09-30
Agriculture And Consumer Services, Florida Department Of $ 238,686,945   2020-10-012021-09-30
Health, Florida Department Of $ 50,401,848   2020-10-012021-09-30
Elder Affairs, Florida Department Of $ 1,108,943   2020-10-012021-09-30

Program Accomplishments

Fiscal Year 2016: In FY 2016, 5.26 billion lunches and snacks were served in the NSLP, slightly more than the 5.23 billion served in FY 2015. Fiscal Year 2017: Current estimate for FY 2017 is 5.37 billion lunches and snacks served. Fiscal Year 2018: The total number of school lunches and snacks in FY 2018 is projected to be 5.43 billion, an increase of 65.6 million (or 1.2 percent) over the current estimate for FY 2017.

Uses and Use Restrictions

Federally appropriated National School Lunch Program funds are available to each State agency to reimburse participating public and nonprofit private schools, of high school grades or under, including residential child care institutions, for providing nutritious lunches to children Funds are also available to reimburse schools for snacks served to children enrolled in eligible after school care programs.

The meals offered must meet specific nutrition standards in order to be reimbursable.

The rates of reimbursement are adjusted on an annual basis to reflect changes in the Food Away From Home series of the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers.

All participating schools must agree to serve free and reduced price meals to eligible children.

Please refer to regulations: 7 CFR Part 210 -- National School Lunch Program, 7 CFR Part 235 -- State Administrative Expense, and 7 CFR Part 245?Free and Reduced Price Eligibility.

Eligibility Requirements

Applicant Eligibility

States, including the District of Columbia and U.S.

Territories, as applicable, may apply to administer the National School Lunch Program and work in collaboration with public and nonprofit private schools and other institutions, such as residential child care institutions, to provide nutritious lunches for children.

All participating schools and institutions must agree to operate a nonprofit food service that is available to all children regardless of race, sex, color, national origin, age, or disability.

Beneficiary Eligibility

All children enrolled in schools where this program is operating may receive a lunch daily. Eligibility for free, reduced-price, or paid lunches is determined based on the household income and size. Lunch is available free to children who are determined by the local education agency to have household income levels at or below 130 percent, and at a reduced price rate to children from households with incomes higher than 130 but at or below 185 percent of the Federal poverty line. Lunch is available at the paid rate to children who are not eligible for free and reduced-price meals. The Secretary prescribes the income eligibility guidelines for free and reduced-price meals by July 1. These guidelines are revised annually according to the Federal Income Poverty Guidelines. Children from households certified to receive benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and children in Head Start programs are automatically eligible for free meals. Homeless children, children in certain runaway and homeless youth grant programs, migrant children, and foster children are automatically eligible for free meals. All reimbursable meals served at the free, reduced-price, and paid categories get cash assistance.


Applicant organizations must furnish evidence of nonprofit status. Costs will be determined in accordance with USDA Uniform Federal Assistance Regulations. 2 CFR 200, Subpart E - Cost Principles applies to this program.

Aplication and Award Process

Preapplication Coordination

School food authorities must submit a written application to the State agency for any school in which it desires to operate the lunch program.

At the local level, households may apply for free or reduced price meals under the lunch program by submitting an application furnished by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), the State agency, or the School Food Authority, as applicable.

Environmental impact information is not required for this program.

This program is eligible for coverage under E.O.

12372, 'Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs.' An applicant should consult the office or official designated as the single point of contact in his or her State for more information on the process the State requires to be followed in applying for assistance, if the State has selected the program for review.

Application Procedures

2 CFR 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards applies to this program. Public schools/school food authorities in all States apply to the State educational agency, unless the State is approved for a waiver to designate an alternate agency. Appropriate application forms may be obtained from the administering agency. Nonprofit, private schools and institutions should also apply to the State educational agency in most States. In some States, however, the State education agency is prohibited by statute from disbursing Federal funds to nonprofit, private schools. In such instances, the application will be referred to the alternate State agency or the appropriate FNS Regional Office.

Award Procedures

The State agency reviews the written application submitted by a school food authority/school or a residential child care institution and, upon determination of eligibility, makes a written agreement with the school or institution for participation in the lunch program.


Contact the headquarters or regional office, as appropriate, for application deadlines.


Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 1751, 1760, 1779.

Range of Approval/Disapproval Time

Effective upon approval by the State agency or FNS regional office as applicable.


The State agency or FNS regional office, as applicable is responsible for determining a school's eligibility.


Permanent, amended as necessary.

Assistance Considerations

Formula and Matching Requirements

Statutory Formula: The funding formula for the general cash for food assistance phase of this program is set forth in section 4 of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, 42 U.S.C. 1753; the formula for special cash assistance is described in section 11 of the Act, 42 U.S.C.1759a. This program is funded on a performance basis. For every lunch served during the applicable fiscal year, the State receives a payment from funds made available under section 4. In addition, the State receives a payment from section 11 funds for each lunch served to a child eligible for free or reduced price lunches. The amounts of such per lunch payments are determined by 'National Average Payment' (NAP) factors. The amount due the State under this program is obtained by: (1) multiplying the total number of eligible paid lunches and free and reduced price lunches served during the fiscal year by the applicable section 4 NAP factor for lunches; (2) multiplying the number of free lunches served by the section 11 NAP factor for free lunches; (3) multiplying the number of lunches served at reduced price by the Section 11 NAP factor for reduced price lunches; (4) multiplying the total number of lunches served during the fiscal year in school food authorities which served 60 percent or more free or reduced price lunches in the second preceding school year by $ .02; and (5) adding together the four products obtained thereby. The NAP factors are prescribed by the Secretary of Agriculture in accordance with sections 4 and 11, respectively, of the Act; the numbers of lunches are obtained from programmatic reports submitted to FNS. In addition to the NAP factors, lunches certified as meeting updated meal patterns and nutrition standards receive performance-based cash assistance of an additional 6 cents starting school year 2012-2013, adjusted annually thereafter as specified in 7 CFR 210.4(b)(1)(iii). The funding formula for snacks in after school care programs is described in section 17A of the Act, 42, U.S.C. 1766a. Section 11(a)(3) of the Act requires that the NAP factors be adjusted annually, according to changes in the Food Away From Home series of the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers; the source is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also, schools receiving USDA Foods are eligible to receive donated commodities equal in value to the sum of section 6 and section 4 assistance rates, except that up to 5 cents of this amount may be received in cash for processing and handling commodities. In addition, schools receiving USDA Foods are eligible for section 11 free and reduced price meal reimbursements. Matching Requirements: Percent: 30%. As specified in Section 7 of the National School Lunch Act, State revenue matching must be not be less than 30 percent of the funds received by the State agency under section 4 of the National School Lunch Act beginning in the 1980-81 school year. This program has MOE requirements, see funding agency for further details. See funding agency for further details.

Length and Time Phasing of Assistance

For the period covered by the agreement on a fiscal year basis. Method of awarding/releasing assistance: by letter of credit.

Post Assistance Requirements


State agencies and schools file monthly reports on the number of meals served, by type, to claim program funds.

School food authorities must submit final meal claims to the State no later than 60 days after the claiming month, and States must submit final program reports to FNS no later than 90 days after the claiming month.

States must submit final fiscal year grant close out reports to FNS within 120 days after the end of the fiscal year to which they pertain.

Annually, school food authorities must report, to their State agency, the most common charge for lunches served to children who do not qualify for free or reduced price lunches.

School food authorities report the price charged at the elementary, middle and high school levels, as applicable.

In turn the State agency submits this information to FNS for publication.

No cash reports are required.

No progress reports are required.

Reports are required as specified in 7 CFR 210.5(d).

Performance monitoring is not applicable.


In accordance with the provisions of 2 CFR 200, Subpart F - Audit Requirements, non-Federal entities that expend financial assistance of $750,000 or more in Federal awards will have a single or a program-specific audit conducted for that year. Non-Federal entities that expend less than $750,000 a year in Federal awards are exempt from Federal audit requirements for that year, except as noted in 2 CFR 200.503. Audits may be conducted less frequently under conditions specified in OMB Circular No. A-133.


Schools/school food authorities must maintain full and accurate records of their nonprofit food service operation, including --but not limited to-- records pertaining to finances, the price of paid lunches in relation to food costs, menu planning and production, and meal counting and claiming. School food authorities must make these records available to the State agency for review.

Financial Information

Account Identification



(Formula Grants) FY 16 $12,259,688,000; FY 17 est $12,413,673,000; and FY 18 est $13,072,329,000

Range and Average of Financial Assistance

State grants vary according to participation in this program.

Regulations, Guidelines, and Literature

Program regulations on operational requirements are codified at 7 CFR Parts 210, and 7 CFR 245 for free and reduced price meal eligibility.

Information Contacts

Regional or Local Office

See Regional Agency Offices. See the Food and Nutrition Service Regional Offices listed in Appendix IV of the Catalog.

Headquarters Office

Cynthia Long, Food and Nutrition Service, 3101 Park Center Drive Room 628, Alexandria, Virginia 22302. Phone: 703-305-2590.

Criteria for Selecting Proposals

Not Applicable.

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