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State strategies to help schools make the most of their National School Lunch Program
  • Published Date:
    January 11, 2010
Filetype[PDF-128.61 KB]

  • Corporate Authors:
    National Governors' Association, Center for Best Practices. ; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.) ;
  • Description:
    The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is the second largest federally subsidized food assistance program, serving approximately 31 million lunches each day. Nearly all public and private schools offer the federally reimbursed school meals program, which cost the federal government $9.3 billion to operate in 2008. Because of its reach--more than half of all school-age children participate in the program at least once a week--and because children consume as many as 20 percent to 50 percent of their daily calories during school hours, the NSLP presents an unparalleled opportunity to improve the nutritional quality of foods served to our nation's students, and ultimately improve their health. This Issue Brief highlights the ways states can positively influence the diets of children at greatest risk for poor health by working with local schools to provide not just a reliable source of nourishment but the best nutrition possible for every dollar spent on the NSLP. In particular, it explores three key challenges schools face with respect to the NSLP and the strategies states can use to help them make the most of this important program: 1) Improving the nutritional quality of meal offerings. To improve nutritional quality of the NSLP, states can strengthen nutrition standards, use federal funds to increase school food preparation and storage capacity, provide food preparation and menu planning training to food service personnel, and facilitate connections between school cafeterias and the local agricultural community. 2) Increasing NSLP enrollment rates. To increase enrollment rates, states can encourage the use of direct certification, facilitate the use of electronic payment systems, and make competitive foods less competitive. 3) Making the most of limited NSLP funds. To make the most of limited NSLP funds, states can facilitate outsourcing to a school food service management company and create statewide or regional "cooperative agreements" for food school procurement. Working together, states and schools can find the best solutions to help each community maximize their NSLP funds and ensure students get the best nutrition possible.

    "Acknowledgments: Joyal Mulheron and Kara Vonasek, formerly with the NGA Center Health Division, co-authored this Issue Brief."

    Includes bibliographical references (p. 10-14).

    "This Issue Brief was supported by Cooperative Agreement number 1U58DP001321-01 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention"--P. 11.

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