The National School Lunch Program
Learn about D.C. Public Schools' Wellness Policy.
...guarantees that millions of low-income children receive a healthy lunch during their school day. All children can participate in the program, but low-income children qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Any public school, charter or nonprofit private school can participate in the National School Lunch Program, and public or nonprofit private residential child care institutions can also participate. In the District, 37,306 low-income children benefited each day in school year 2009-2010..
What’s happening with school lunch in D.C.?
D.C. Healthy Schools Act eliminates co-payment that families used to pay for reduced-price lunch
Thanks to the Healthy Schools Act, children living in households with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the federal poverty level will no longer have to pay a co-payment for reduced-price lunch at all D.C. public and public charter schools.
Before the Healthy Schools Act, D.C. Public Schools charged 20 cents and charter schools charged up to 40 cents for reduced-price lunch. Low-income families struggling with fixed costs for food, rent, utilities, transportation, and child care often do not have spare money for co-payments. And when schools charge interests on student accounts or deny children a meal when their accounts maintain a balance, this co-payment can constitute a serious hardship.
To support implementation (pdf) of this requirement, DCPS and public charter schools that comply with all of Sections 202 and 203 in Title II of the Act will receive 40 cents extra for each lunch served to students who qualify for reduced-price meals.
DC lunches just got healthier
Under the Healthy Schools Act's school nutrition requirements, school lunches must meet the serving requirements of the USDA’s HealthierUS Schools Challenge Gold award level. Schools are also encouraged to serve fresh, locally-grown foods in school meals from farms engaged in sustainable practices whenever possible. Expect to see students eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in school year 2010-2011.
USDA Issues Proposed Rule on School Meal Nutrition Standards
On January 12, 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued the proposed rule on school meal nutrition standards: Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs (pdf). In many respects, these proposed national nutrition standards reflect what D.C. is now implementing through the Healthy Schools Act. As Congress intended, the proposed rule closely follows the USDA-commissioned Institute of Medicine’s 2009 report: School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children.
D.C. Hunger Solutions can help by:
- advocating for policy improvements to make school meals work for low-income families and improve meal quality;
- conducting outreach to increase participation in school meals;
- implementing a plan to collect meal applications to enable D.C. schools to access full federal funding;
- helping your school enroll in the National School Lunch Program or develop strategies to improve school meal quality;
- promoting the Healthy Schools Act in D.C. schools.
Help Us Spread the Word:
- Promote the importance of school meals.
- Collect D.C. Public School meal applications from all households so that schools can get maximum federal reimbursements for school meals and Title I funding. The DCPS application is available in multiple languages.
- Download our Guide to Collecting School Meal Applications (pdf).
- Contact us with your questions or concerns about school meal quality.
More School Lunch News...
D.C Schools adopt wellness policies
The D.C. Public Schools Wellness Policy was adopted in school year 2006-2007 to help improve the quality of school meals. The Wellness Policy includes a mandate for: increased use of the federal nutrition programs, including breakfast; standards for food served in school meals and vending machines; nutrition education guidelines; and minimum physical education standards. Charter schools have adopted similar policies. D.C. Hunger Solutions, in partnership with Action for Healthy Kids, took the lead on Wellness Policy development and adoption.
School meal application campaign
D.C. Hunger Solutions partnered with D.C. Public Schools, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, DCPS Parent Resource Centers, and others to launch a school meal application campaign. When a student qualifies for free meals but has no application on file, the school loses more than $600 over the course of the school year in federal nutrition reimbursements. Estimates of lost dollars in the District run as high as $11 million annually. Collecting meal applications is a rare win-win-win-win situation: good for the nutrition, health and learning of D.C. students; good for struggling parents; good for test scores and other educational outcomes; and good for D.C. government’s fiscal well-being.