The National School Lunch Program 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 Minnesota Department of Education’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers school and community nutrition programs for Minnesota children and adults through local schools, child and adult care facilities and summer food program sites. Participants receive nutritious meals and education to help them learn and practice healthy habits for a lifetime of wellness.
Free and Reduced-Price Meals
Schools that participate in School Nutrition Programs accept applications for free and reduced-price school meal benefits at any time. Approval is based on comparison of the household’s income to current U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) household income guidelines. Schools send an Application for Educational Benefits form to the households of all enrolled students at the beginning of each school year. A letter accompanies the form and explains school meal benefits and how to apply.
Summer Food Service
The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) helps local organizations operate programs combining nutritious meals and healthy activities for children during the summer months when school-year nutrition and activity programs are unavailable. In Minnesota, more than 100 sponsors operate more than 475 SFSP sites, serving 1.7 million meals per year.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP) and After School Care Program. USDA provides cash reimbursement to public schools, private nonprofit schools and residential child care institutions for nutritious meals and snacks served to children in preschool through grade 12 at a minimal cost.
Families may apply for meals served free or at a reduced-price based on the income level of the household. Residential child care institutions and juvenile correctional facilities may serve meals to children and youth 20 years of age or younger. Reimbursement for snacks served to children in afterschool programs is based on the income level of the households living in the local area or the enrolled children.
Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Improving child nutrition is the focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA). The legislation authorizes funding and sets policy for the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. HHKFA upgrades the nutritional standards for school meals, increases the federal reimbursement rate for school lunches by six cents, increases access to school meals, provides more meals for at-risk children, and works toward improving the quality of foods supplied to schools. For resources on how schools can best meet the new regulations, see the related links at right.
Farm to School is a nationwide collaborative effort to connect school districts with local farmers for the purpose of serving healthy school meals while utilizing local fresh foods. Farm to School aims to meet the diverse needs of school nutrition programs in an efficient manner, to support regional and local farmers and thereby strengthen local food systems and to provide support for health and nutrition education. View more information and resources on Farm to School.
Meet the Challenge and Become a HealthierUS School. The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) recognizes schools that have taken a leadership role in helping students learn to make healthier eating and active lifestyle choices. HUSSC is a voluntary certification program for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program. Select the HealthierUS School Challenge link to learn more.
Nondiscrimination statement: In accordance with federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.
The National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program help schools provide nutritious meals to students each school day. These are U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs that are administered by the Minnesota Department of Education. Participating schools receive Federal and state funds for meals that meet established nutrition standards.
General Program Requirements
You may qualify for this benefit program if you have child(ren) who attend a Minnesota school (high school or under) that participates in the National School Lunch Program / School Breakfast Program. Almost all public schools and many private schools participate in these programs.
Your Next Steps
The following information will lead you to the next steps to apply for this program.
Schools send school meal applications home at the beginning of each school year. However, you may apply for school meals at any time throughout the school year by submitting a household application directly to your school. Your school will provide you with an application upon request.
Contact your state’s agency to participate.
Program Contact Information
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally funded meal program operating in learning institutions (public and nonprofit private schools), and other designated institutions (childcare, juvenile detention centers, board and lodging institutions, single family homes, etc).
Established and signed in 1946 by President Harry Truman, the NSLP’s purpose is to provide balanced low cost or free lunches to school children, each day. Institutions participating in NSLP are required by federal law, section (9) of US Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, to have two food inspections annually. As mandated by both state (Minnesota Food Code) and federal law, the Minnesota Department of Health and its Delegated Agencies (Local Public Health Authorities) conduct food inspections annually. They report and share inspection results with the Minnesota Department of Education. The annual report (number of food safety inspections) obtained by institutions and sites participating in the NSLP is then conveyed to the United States Department of Agriculture Secretary by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE).
For more information about the National School Lunch Program:
- Minnesota Department of Education
- United States Department of Agriculture
- Return to the MDH NSLP Home Page
Minnesota School Food Inspections
Minnesota Department of Health – Environmental Health Services (MDH-EHS) and Delegated Agencies information about inspections for schools and sites participating in the National School Lunch Program. This information is comprised of tables and reports for schools and sites where food safety inspections were performed in school years 2010-2011.