Participation trends for the National School Lunch Program reflect impacts of 2007-09 recession

A chart showing the certification status of average daily school lunch participants, fiscal years 1969 to 2010.

USDA's National School Lunch Program is the Nation's second largest food and nutrition assistance program, with spending for the program totaling $10.5 billion in 2010. The program subsidizes meals in participating schools, which must offer nutritious meals to any student at full price, and for free or at reduced prices to income eligible students. In fiscal year 2010, daily participation increased to 31.7 million students, up from 30.6 million in 2007. Over this time period, the number of children and teenagers receiving free lunches grew from 14.9 million to 17.6 million, while the number of full price lunches served declined from 12.6 million to 11.1 million. This chart appears in the Food and Nutrition Assistance Research topic on the ERS website, updated on November 29, 2011. See more on ERS' research and evaluation studies on child nutrition programs.

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