Frequently Asked Questions
How does the National School Lunch Program work?
School divisions that choose to take part in the National School Lunch Program get cash subsidies and donated commodities from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for each meal they serve. In return, they must serve lunches that meet Federal requirements, and they must offer free or reduced-price lunches to eligible children.
What are the nutritional requirements for school lunch?
School meals must meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend that no more than 30 percent of an individual's calories come from fat, and less than 10 percent from saturated fat. Regulations also establish a standard for school lunches to provide one-third of the Recommended Dietary Allowances of protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron, calcium, and calories.
What are the nutrition requirements for school breakfast?
School breakfast must meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend that no more than 30 percent of an individual's calories come from fat, and less than 10 percent from saturated fat. Regulations also establish a standard for school breakfast to provide one-fourth of the Recommended Dietary Allowances of protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron, calcium, and calories.
How do children qualify for free and reduced-price meals?
At the beginning of each school year, letters and meal applications are distributed to households of children attending school. This letter informs households that school nutrition programs are available and that free and reduced-price meals are available based on income criteria. Students are required to have a meal application on file. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-price meals, for which students can be charged no more than 40 cents for lunch and 30 cents for breakfast.
Do children have to select everything that is offered?
By law, children in senior high school must be permitted to decline lunch items they do not intend to eat. The program regulations allow schools to elect to extend this permission to elementary and junior high school children as well. This means that high school children may decline as many as two of the five items in a food-based lunch, and younger children may decline one or two items depending on local policy.
Are schools required to make menu substitutions for children who cannot eat the regular lunch or breakfast?
Federal law and the regulations for the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program require schools to make accommodations for children who are unable to eat the school meal as prepared because of a disability. Accommodation generally involves substituting food items, but in some cases schools may need to make more far reaching accommodations to meet the needs of children. For example, some children may need to have the texture modified.
In order to make substitutions for items in reimbursable meals, the school must have on file a written statement signed by a licensed physician indicating what the child's disability is, what foods must be omitted from the child's diet, and what foods must be substituted.
How do interested schools participate in the afterschool snack program?
School divisions must submit an application to the State agency before beginning an afterschool snack program. The afterschool program must provide children with educational or enrichment activities in an organized, structured and supervised environment. For further information, contact School Nutrition Programs, Virginia Department of Education.
What is Team Nutrition?
Team Nutrition focuses on the important role nutritious school meals, nutrition education and a health-promoting school environment play in helping students learn to eat healthy. Team Nutrition schools receive USDA resources to plan and implement nutrition education activities. Enroll to become a Team Nutrition school.
How many school meals are served in Virginia?
681,505 lunches, 196,987 breakfasts and 7,240 afterschool snacks are served to Virginia students each day. That's more than 122.5 million lunches, 35 million breakfasts and 1.3 million snacks each school year.
Where can I find the most recent free and reduced price eligibility statistics for my school/school division?
Please visit our Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program Eligibility Reports page to download a PDF or Excel document with that information.
How do I enroll my daycare in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)?
Please contact the USDA Mid-Atlantic Regional Office:
Section Chief, Child and Adult Care Food Program
Mid-Atlantic Regional Office (MARO), USDA, FNS, SNP
Mercer Corporate Park
300 Corporate Boulevard
Robbinsville, NJ 08691-1598
Phone: (609) 259-5140 or (609) 259-5072
Fax: (609) 259-5128
Are schools required to provide lunch/breakfast?
Participation in the USDA breakfast and lunch programs is voluntary. All public elementary and middle schools in Virginia participate in the National School Lunch Program; all public high schools also participate, with the exception of high schools in Hanover, Chesterfield, Prince George, Colonial Heights and Henrico, although Henrico high schools will join the program in 2007-2008. More than 90% of the schools that participate in the NSLP also participate in the USDA School Breakfast Program.
What time are schools required to schedule breakfast and lunch?
Federal regulations require schools to schedule lunch between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. There are no specific time requirements for breakfast; federal regulations define breakfast as a meal which is served to children in the morning hours at or close to the beginning of the school day.
Whom do I contact to find out about the lunch program in my school division?
Please contact the school nutrition supervisor for your local school division directly for that information.