Get to Know Your School Lunch Program

The National School Lunch Program started in 1946. Its goal is to offer students healthy, balanced meals. Now, the USDA runs and supports this program to make sure kids get nutritious lunches. In 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act made a big change. Now, school meals follow MyPlate, which outlines how to eat healthy. This means more fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins are on students’ plates.

School lunches are more than just food. They are part of what makes school memorable. Families can help kids make the most of school lunches by knowing about the National School Lunch Program. This way, children get to enjoy the benefits of a healthy school meal service.

Introduction to the School Lunch Program

School lunch programs in Canada have a long history, starting in the mid-1800s. At first, they were set up by charities, school districts, and people. They aimed to help with hunger and malnutrition, which got worse during the 1930s Great Depression.

In the face of growing costs, Roosevelt’s administration started the National School Lunch Program in 1946. This program, overseen by the USDA, makes sure students always have access to healthy meals.

Key Statistic


Receiving free or reduced-price school lunches reduces food insecurity by at least 3.8 percent.

School lunch programs help alleviate food insecurity among low-income students.

Low-income students who eat both school breakfast and lunch have significantly better overall diet quality than low-income students who do not eat school meals.

Comprehensive school meal services contribute to improved nutrition and dietary habits.

Economists estimate that the receipt of a free or reduced-price school lunch reduces obesity rates by at least 17 percent.

School lunch programs can play a role in addressing childhood obesity.

We all cherish moments in the school cafeteria, whether it’s laughing with friends or enjoying a favorite meal. School food and nutrition policies have improved over time. They make sure Canadian students get the nourishing meals they need to grow.

The History and Origins of School Lunches

School lunches have a long history, starting in Europe in the 19th century. In 1849, the French government began giving meals to poor school kids. Soon, by 1867, 464 spots in France provided these meals. The trend grew, and by 1882, school lunches were made compulsory with France’s primary education law.

Italy was also a front runner, launching a feeding program in 1896. They soon fed more students than any other European nation by 1909. In parallel, England made a move in 1906. They shifted the responsibility of feeding kids at school from charities to educational bodies through the Provision of Meals Act.

Establishment of the National School Lunch Program

The U.S.A. picked up the pace in 1946. President Harry S. Truman signed the National School Lunch Act. This was a significant moment, making sure kids had access to balanced meals at school.

Role of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

The USDA played an essential role in the National School Lunch Program. They have crafted policies over time to provide healthy school meals to all students. This is key to the program’s success and development.

In 2007, the USDA found that school meals fell short in some areas. They didn’t include enough whole grains, fruits, and veggies, and had too much unhealthy fat and salt. This discovery led to improvements through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010.

School Lunch Program Objectives and Guidelines

School lunch nutrition guidelines are in place in Canada, overseen by the USDA. Each province is responsible for running the program. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 brought big changes. It added more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to meals. It also cut back on calories and sodium. The goal was to give students healthier, more balanced meals at school.

Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was a game-changer for school meals in Canada. It meant more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and less calories, fat, and salt in lunches. These efforts aimed to make school lunches healthier and well-rounded.

Nutritional Requirements for School Meals

In 2019, a new rule was put in place, changing school meal requirements. It allowed more variety in menu planning than the 2010 Act. Schools can now serve 1% flavored milk. This adds to the choices of unflavored fat-free and low-fat milk. It was done to make sure students drink more milk.

Meal Component



Served daily at breakfast and lunch


Served daily at lunch

Whole Grains

Required in all bread, pasta, rice, and other grain products


Limits set for each age/grade group


Gradual reductions required over time

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act made school meals better for students. By following the USDA’s school meal requirements, it encourages healthy eating habits. It promotes the well-being of students all over Canada.

A Healthier Approach to School Meals

Thanks to the USDA’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, school meals have improved across Canada. They now adhere to the MyPlate approach for balanced eating. This means schools offer fruits every morning and at least one fruit and one vegetable at lunch. These meals are full of essential vitamins and minerals, giving students plenty of healthy school lunch options.

Emphasis on Fruits and Vegetables

Nutrition is key, so schools are putting more fruits and veggies on the menu. Students can pick from a bigger selection, whether it’s fresh, canned, or frozen. This shift aims to enhance their health and well-being.

See also  7 Creative Ways to Make Your Childs School Lunch More Exciting

Whole Grains in School Meals

Whole grains are now a bigger part of school meals, found in bread, tortillas, and even pasta. This change ensures students get more fiber and essential nutrients from whole grain school meals.

Lean Protein Options

Protein choices are healthier too, like oven-baked fish nuggets and chicken teriyaki. There are also lean beef or bean burritos on whole-wheat tortillas. These options are packed with important nutrients for student growth.

Milk Choices in the School Lunch Program

The USDA now lets schools have 1% flavored milk. This change aims to make kids drink more milk. Besides, the USDA knows that what you drink at school matters. So, it’s pushing for healthy school beverages at cafeterias.

Schools can serve fat-free and low-fat milk, even in different flavors, in meals and for purchase. At each meal, there must be unflavored milk. Flavored milk should have no more than 10 grams of added sugar per 8 ounces. By 2025-26, flavored milk sold to older students can have up to 15 grams per 12 ounces.

Flavored milk stands out as a big sugar source in school meals, packing half of lunch sugars and 30% in breakfasts. But, most U.S. school milk suppliers agreed to cut sugar to 10 grams by 2025-26. This move helps improve school milk options.

The Congress made school meals better by allowing low-fat or fat-free flavored milk. This way, schools can get kids to drink milk in meals. Making flavored milk a part of school lunches aims to help kids get enough dairy each day.

Milk Options in School Meals

Nutritional Guidelines

Fat-free and low-fat milk, flavored and unflavored

Unflavored milk must be offered at each meal service

Flavored milk with ≤10g added sugars per 8oz

Flavored milk sold à la carte in middle/high schools: ≤15g added sugars per 12oz

90%+ of school milk market committed to ≤10g added sugars per 8oz by 2025-26

Congress allows low-fat or fat-free flavored milk in reimbursable school meals

The USDA’s proposed rule wants to fix sugar, salt, and grains in school food. It offers two plans for flavored milk in the future. Schools must pick options that kids like and fit health guidelines. They also need to ensure kids get enough dairy every day.

Financial Assistance for School Lunches

The USDA helps out families who find lunch costs a lot. They offer free or reduced-price lunches through school meal programs. You can check if you qualify on the USDA’s website. This makes sure every kid gets the meals they need to do well at school. If your child needs special meals because of a medical issue, the school will help with that.

Income Eligibility Guidelines

The USDA’s program supports families that need help. It looks at how much your family earns and how many are in your family. With this program, kids can get free and reduced price school meals. This means they can concentrate on learning without the stress of not having lunch money.

Accommodations for Special Dietary Needs

For students with special diet needs, schools can provide help. They offer USDA school lunch assistance and school meal financial aid. This includes special diets like gluten-free or vegetarian. The goal is to have meals that fit all kids’ needs, so everyone can enjoy school lunches.


School Lunch Program: A Canadian Perspective

In Canada, BON APPÉTIT is our provincial lunch program. It offers healthy and cost-effective meals to K-12 students every school day. This initiative helps kids from all over Canada get nutritious food. It supports their health and helps them do better in school.

Participating Schools in Canada

PEI Public Schools Branch schools, École St. Augustin, and École Évangéline can order school meals through BON APPÉTIT. This means students can get nutritious and tasty lunches all year. The ordering system is easy and ensures balanced meals.

Meal Ordering and Donation Options

BON APPÉTIT allows online orders and welcomes school lunch donations. Donations help ensure all kids get the food they need. This collaborative effort improves students’ chances to learn well.

School Lunch Program: Challenges and Solutions

The school lunch program in Canada has its hurdles, yet devoted team members strive to meet them. They ensure students get the necessary food. When a student isn’t at school, their lunch might be given to a child who needs it, preventing food waste.

School closures due to bad weather pose another issue. No refunds are given for missed meals during these times. Yet, future orders can be adjusted to make up for the missed days.

Handling Missed Lunches and School Closures

When a student misses school, their lunch might go to another student in need. About school closures, refunded meals aren’t given. This is because the food has already been prepared. But, parents can adjust future orders to cover the days missed.

Dietary Restrictions and Menu Options

Meeting dietary needs in schools is tough for the program. It does not supply gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegetarian meals. Nonetheless, the director does work with families. They aim to provide meals suitable for children with specific dietary needs.



Total number of schools participating


Number of meals served daily

Over 6,700

Meal components provided daily

Lunch size cartons of milk, oranges, cucumbers, lbs. of lettuce, lbs. of carrots

First day of lunch service

September 27th

Gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegetarian options offered


Pork served in meal options


Contact number for registration assistance

Tel: 709-754-5323 (221)

Program location

425 Topsail Rd, St. John’s NL A1E 5N7, Canada

Working hours

Mon – Fri: 8:30 AM – 4:00 PM

See also  Culinary Education in Schools: Teaching Life Skills Through Cooking and Nutrition

The National School Lunch Program is key for students, giving them nutritious meals. This helps kids build healthy habits and do better in school. It follows rules like the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and the USDA’s MyPlate.

Schools now serve more fruits, veggies, grains, and lean proteins. This ensures children enjoy balanced and healthy lunches. Families can learn about the program’s goals, how to get financial help, and how it caters to special diets. This way, kids can make the most of these school meal services.

Research shows that free or cheaper school lunches help a lot. They lower hunger, obesity, and health issues in kids from low-income families. Kids who eat school breakfasts and lunches do better in many ways. Their school work improves, they’re in class more, and they behave well.

Also, better school meals could mean higher test scores. For kids who face more challenges, like being poor, this help is big. So, the school lunch program is super important for students’ health and success in school.

The National School Lunch Program is always getting better. It fits students’ changing needs, staying important for Canada’s schools. By understanding the program, families help their kids do well in both school and life.


What is the National School Lunch Program?

The National School Lunch Program began in 1946. Its goal is to provide students with healthy meals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees the program, making sure kids get good lunches.

How have school meals changed over time?

Since 2010, school meals have gotten a lot healthier. They follow MyPlate, which guides people on eating well. Now, meals have more fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins.

What are the USDA’s guidelines for school meals?

The USDA sets rules for what schools can serve. Each state then follows these guidelines. After 2010, meals must have more fruits, veggies, and whole grains. They also need to be lower in calories and sodium.

What kind of food options are available in school cafeterias?

Schools now serve fruit at breakfast and both fruit and veggies at lunch. They also offer more whole grains in bread, tortillas, and pasta. Plus, you can find healthier proteins like fish or chicken, and beef or bean burritos on whole-wheat tortillas.

What milk options are available in school cafeterias?

The latest USDA rule lets schools serve 1% flavored milk. They also offer unflavored fat-free and low-fat milk to encourage kids to drink more milk.

How can families get financial assistance for school lunches?

If paying for lunch is hard, families might qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. You can check your eligibility on the USDA’s site. For kids with special dietary needs, the school can help.

How do school lunch programs work in Canada?

In Canada, the BON APPÉTIT program provides a healthy lunch each school day for all K-12 students. It’s both healthy and affordable. The program also accepts donations to help feed students.

How are missed lunches and school closures handled?

If a child doesn’t eat a lunch that was already paid for, it’s usually given to another child. For school closures, sorry, no refunds because the food has been bought. But, you can adjust future orders if your child misses school.

Source Links


Latest News

Recent Post

Scroll to Top