How is it funded?
May 29, 2023
The USDA finances the cost of meals under this program. Participating schools receive cash subsidies for reimbursable meals as long as the meals meet the nutritional requirements set forth by the federal government.
The NSLP requires that each meal consists of five components: fruits, vegetables, grains, meats or meat alternatives, and fluid milk. If a student takes all necessary components, their meal can be reimbursed. However, the school must pay a la carte charges for that meal if not all components are taken.
“If let’s say, you go up to lunch and you want to have a slice of pizza on Friday if you want a slice of pizza, and you don’t want to take the required fruit or vegetable with that, then there is a charge for it because it’s an a la carte item,” Jonaidi said.
The USDA encourages schools to provide options for different entrees that students can choose from, as well as various types of fruits and vegetables, chocolate, and regular milk. This is with the hope that with more options, there is more likely to be something for everyone, which can help reduce food waste and ensure everyone takes a reimbursable meal.
In California, more students have begun utilizing this program since lunch became free for all students, despite their financial status.
“The system and how the meals are paid for has changed and therefore, we’ve seen an increase in the number of meals being served,” Jonaidi said.