The National School Lunch Program Background, Trends, and Issues

Economic Research Report No. (ERR-61) 56 pp, July 2008

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by Katherine Ralston, Constance Newman, Annette Clauson, Joanne Guthrie, and Jean C. Buzby

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is the Nation's second largest food and nutrition assistance program. In 2006, it operated in over 101,000 public and nonprofit private schools and provided over 28 million low-cost or free lunches to children on a typical school day at a Federal cost of $8 billion for the year. This report provides background information on the NSLP, including historical trends and participant characteristics. It also addresses steps being taken to meet challenges facing administrators of the program, including tradeoffs between nutritional quality of foods served, costs, and participation, as well as between program access and program integrity.

Keywords: National School Lunch Program, child nutrition, obesity, food assistance

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