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National School Lunch Program Fills Student Bellies

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A child should never have to go hungry. Hunger and malnutrition interferes with physical growth, academic performance and overall well-being and happiness.

Our schools and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) play an important role in making sure that those children who come from a household with limited or no income are always provided with a healthy breakfast, lunch, or after-school snack.

NSLP was started in 1947, and provides nutritionally balanced meals to over 30 million children each school day. In recent years, the U. S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Defense have collaborated with local farmers to provide fresh produce, too.

During this uncertain economy, where 15 percent of our population has slipped into poverty, I keep an eye out for children who often seem to “forget” their lunch box or lunch money. Hardworking parents or a parent who just started collecting unemployment may feel too embarrassed to inquire about free and reduced lunch services or simply don’t know who to ask.

According to the NSLP website, schools send home forms at the beginning of the school year, but a family can apply any time by requesting a form from the school office.

I once had a dad ask me, “How poor do I have to be for my child to qualify?” Depending on the income and number of persons in the family, a student may qualify for free meals or meals at a greatly reduced price.

According to the NSLP fact sheet, a family of four earning about $28,000 a year qualifies for free meals. A family just above the line of poverty qualifies for a reduced lunch at about $.40. The paper work and the names of students who qualify always remain confidential, so parents don’t need to worry about family privacy.

I urge parents to remember that it is not always about poverty or being “poor.” Any time there is a decrease in income due to unemployment, interrupted child support payments, or other financial crisis, there is no reason the children in the family should go hungry at school.


Food and Nutrition Services. National School Lunch Program fact sheet. Web. 14, Sept. 2011.

CNN Money. Poverty Rate Rise in America. Web. 14, Sept. 2011.

Food and Nutrition Services. Applying for School Meals. Web. 14, Sept. 2011.

Reviewed September 15, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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