National School Lunch Program
On this page...
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
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.
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.
Resources for Administrators
Permanent Agreement between the Food Service Authority and the DE, Bureau of Nutrition and Health Services
CNP 10(Agreement between SFA and the DE)
Diet Modification Request Form
Diet Modification Form Question and Answer
FY16 School Meal Programs Documents
Iowa Eligibility Application Instructions
Iowa Eligibility Application
Ethnic Racial Form
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.
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 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.
Outreach poster for hawk-i. Please display this poster where parents can see it.
Homeless Children in the School Nutrition Program
USDA requires accurate daily meal counts. The Edit Record and the Self-Monitoring Form for On-site reviews are tools to ensure accurate reporting.
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
Sample food production record for a variety of menus and grade levels. USDA requires daily food production records.
Information presented at an ICN training on school meals in the RCCI is available at: RCCI Learning Tools