National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
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 in Maryland — approximately 95 percent — participate in the program, providing nutritionally balanced meals to more than 30 million children on an average day.
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. More than 300,000 students in Maryland received free and reduced-price lunch in the 2017-2018 school year.
School Lunch in Maryland
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 established healthier meal guidelines for school lunches. School meals now have more whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, and vegetables. The new guidelines also reduce the amount of fat, sugar, and sodium in school meals.
A key piece of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, community eligibility was made available to schools nationwide in the 2014–2015 school year. Community eligibility allows schools with high percentages of low-income children to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students. In the 2018-2019 school year, 242 Maryland schools participated in community eligibility, meaning more than 106,200 students in Maryland could eat school lunch at no cost.
Still, there are many eligible schools in Maryland that have not yet implemented the program. Maryland Hunger Solutions is continuing to conduct outreach, education, and advocacy to ensure more high-poverty schools participate.