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National School Lunch Program


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The National School Lunch Program is a federally funded program which assists schools and other agencies in providing nutritious lunches to children at reasonable prices. In addition to financial assistance, the program provides donated commodity foods to help reduce lunch program costs. The United States Department of Agriculture is responsible for overseeing the program nationally. In Iowa, the program is administered by the Iowa Department of Education, Bureau of Nutrition Programs and Health Services. For more information, connect to the USDA site. What are the benefits of participating in the program?

For children, the National School Lunch Program provides a nutritious meal that contains 1/3 of the Recommended Dietary Allowance of necessary nutrients. For parents, the program offers a convenient method of providing a nutritionally balanced lunch at the lowest possible price. For schools, the program enhances children's learning abilities by contributing to their physical and mental well being. Studies have shown that children whose nutritional needs are met have fewer attendance and discipline problems and are more attentive in class.

What is involved in daily operations of the National School Lunch Program?

The lunch program must be open to all enrolled children. Free or reduced price meals must be provided to those children who qualify for such benefits according to specified household size and income standards. Agency staff must verify income on a percentage of those receiving free or reduced price lunches to confirm their eligibility. Records must be kept to document that the lunch program follows all federal and state rules and regulations.

What Types of Agencies May Participate?

Public and private nonprofit schools are eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program. Also eligible are public and private nonprofit licensed residential child care institutions (e.g., group homes, juvenile halls).


Agencies that participate in the program are reimbursed from two sources: the United States Department of Agriculture and the State of Iowa. State reimbursement is paid for all meals until allocated funds are depleted. Federal reimbursement is paid for all meals served and claimed according to regulations. The National School Lunch Program is operated on a reimbursement basis, with agencies reimbursed on the number of meals served by eligibility type.

Resources for Food Service Staff

School Nutrition Standards

Through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, USDA made the first major changes in school meals in 15 years. The new standards align school meals with the most up-to-date science and expert recommendations including the Institute of Medicine Report and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Visit the Iowa School Nutrition Standards webpage for menu planning tools, menus and recipes, and communication tools including the Build a Healthy Lunch reimbursable meal identification system.  

Visit the USDA webpage for information on the regulation, policy memos, and guidance materials.

Sample Inventory Records and Staffing Guidelines

Lunch Form for SMI Records
Inventory Records
Sample Staffing Guidelines and Meal Equivalent Calculations

Fluid Milk Substitutions

Certain soy milk companies and varieties contain needed nutrients to meet the definition of nutritionally adequate. Regulations no longer allow school authorities to substitute orange juice for fluid milk in all circumstances.

Fluid Milk Substitutions Requirements-chart and Regulations

Menu Production Work Sheets

Food Production records are required daily documentation of specific food items offered to meet the meal pattern. This Excel workbook contains one sheet for lunch, with 3 grade groupings and adult/a la carte servings, one daily food bar sheet with space to identify servings for 3 grade groupings and adult/a la carte, a daily transport sheet, and a sheet for breakfast. 

New Meal Pattern Food Production Record

Resources for Administrators

The information in this section includes primarily forms, memos, and instructions for other program specific document used frequently by administrators.
Additional resources for administrators can be found in the Nutrition Program Learning Tools Section.
IowaCNPResources - Learning tools for new IowaCNP web application.

Permanent Agreement between the Food Service Authority and the DE, Bureau of Nutrition and Health  Services
Every sponsor of child nutrition programs has a signed agreement to participate in the program and a copy is on file. Since the agreements were made permanent, a blank copy is posted here for reference. 
CNP 10(Agreement between SFA and the DE)
Diet Modification Request Form
All requests for dietary changes will need a completed Diet Modification Request Form.  School Nutrition Programs must make dietary substitutions and modifications when related to a disability when signed by a licensed prescribing medical professional.   While schools must meet dietary needs related to a disability, other non-disability requests may be made at the discretion of the local school food service program.
Diet Modification Request Form    
Diet Modification Form Question and Answer 
Paid Lunch Equity Tool
The Paid Lunch Equity Tool is revised annually to assist in calculating the student meal price.  Each SFA must complete this document and will be required to submit it with the annual application.

FY16 School Meal Programs Documents

The following documents are for use after July 1, 2015 for the 2015-2016 school year.  Applications materials are to be distributed at or near the beginning of the school year.

Iowa Eligibility Application Instructions
Iowa Eligibility Application
Parent Letter
Ethnic Racial Form
Waiver Statement
Notification Prototype VIII
Food Assistance Outreach Poster
Food Assistance Outreach Poster - Spanish Translation 
Iowa Eligibility Application Instructions - Spanish Translation
Iowa Eligibility Application - Spanish Translation
Parent Letter - Spanish Translation
Waiver Statement - Spanish Translation
Notification Prototype VIII - Spanish Translation
If you need an editable format from the list of documents above, those with access to the IowaCNP web application can download documents that can be customized.

USDA Applications and Other Household Materials for Limited English Proficient Households

This link will take you to the USDA Applications and other household materials for Limited English Proficient Households.  Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has issued prototype materials in English and translated them into 33 languages which are available at the following link.  These materials will assist Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) redesign household materials if there is a need.

USDA Eligibility Manual for School Meals
This link will take you to the USDA Policy Manual, Eligibility Manual for School Meals. This manual contains information on Federal requirements regarding the determination and verification of eligibility for free and reduced price meals in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program.  These provisions also apply to the determination of eligibility for free milk under the Special Milk Program.   This updated version reflects changes made since that time as a result of  final and interim regulations, legislation and policy implementation memoranda required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

Eligibility Manual for School Meals - Determining and Verifying Eligibility - July 2015

Verification Information
USDA requires School Food Authorities(SFAs) participating in the National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program to verify 3% of the households that have applied for free or reduced price meal benefits.

Click here for Verification learning tools.

Verification Selection Letter to Households(Prototype III)
Verification Results Letter to Households(Prototype VI)
Verification Selection Letter to Households(Prototype III) - Spanish Translation
Verification Results Letter to Households(Prototype VI)-Spanish Translation


hawk-i Information

hawk-i is the State's medical insurance program for children. Public LEAs are required to report to hawk-i and Medicaid information about households who request the information. Non Public LEAs are encouraged to report.

Hawk-I Instructions for Iowa School

Outreach poster for hawk-i. Please display this poster where parents can see it.

Hawk-I Outreach Poster

Homeless Children in the School Nutrition Program

Students that are identified as homeless by the Homeless Liaison are eligible for free meals.

Homeless children in SNP
Memo to Homeless Liaison

USDA requires accurate daily meal counts. The Edit Record and the Self-Monitoring Form for On-site reviews are tools to ensure accurate reporting.

Edit Record for Meal Counts Individual Bldg

Self Monitoring Form for Onsite Reviews

Memorandums from USDA on a variety of areas.

Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value
2009 Exemptions Under the Competitive Food Services Regulations (TA 01-2009)
Handling Lost, Stolen and Misused Meal Tickets
Lost and Stolen Ticket and Card Policy
Meal Substitutions for Medical or Other

Residential Child Care Institutions (RCCI)

The term ‘‘residential child care institutions’’ includes, but is not limited to: homes for the mentally, emotionally or physically impaired, and unmarried mothers and their infants; group homes; halfway houses; orphanages; temporary shelters for abused children and for runaway children; long-term care facilities for chronically ill children; and juvenile detention centers. A long-term care facility is a hospital, skilled nursing facility, intermediate care facility, or distinct part thereof, which is intended for the care of children confined for 30 days or more.

This sample monthly Meal Participation Sheet can be used for the meal counting system for breakfast and lunch. Meal counting must be done at the point of service and include each child's name

RCCI Meal Participation

Sample food production record for a variety of menus and grade levels. USDA requires daily food production records.

RCCI Food Production Record

Information presented at an ICN training on school meals in the RCCI is available at: RCCI Learning Tools


Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on November 26, 2015 at 7:05pm.