The National School Lunch Program — the nation’s second largest food and nutrition assistance program behind SNAP — makes it possible for all school children in the United States to receive a nutritious lunch every school day. The vast majority of schools — approximately 95 percent — participate in the program, providing meals to more than 30 million children on an average day.

Quick Facts:

  • 21.5 million low-income children participated in the National School Lunch Program on a typical day in the 2016-2017 school year.
  • More than 97,000 schools participated in the National School Lunch Program in the 2016-2017 school year.
  • Any public school, nonprofit private school, or residential child care institution can participate in the program and receive federal funds for each meal served.
  • Meals served through the National School Lunch Program meet federal nutrition standards, which require schools to serve more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • The program is administered at the federal level by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and in each state typically through the state department of education or agriculture.

School Lunch in Your State

To find out the agency that administers the National School Lunch Program in your state, check USDA’s list of state administering agencies.

Find Agencies

CEP Success Story

Green Bay, Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s Green Bay School Board voted unanimously to enroll 14 Green Bay high-poverty schools in the Community Eligibility Provision As a result, more than 5,000 low-income children who attend Green Bay schools will now have access to breakfast and lunch at no cost starting this fall. These schools join more than 381 other high-need schools in 91 districts that are enrolled in community eligibility across the state.
A Victory Against Hunger
Maureen Fitzgerald, Director of Advocacy, Hunger Task Force