What are the eligibility requirements for the Child Nutrition Program?

To assist low income families, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) supports child nutritional programs that “ensure that children receive nutritious meals and snacks that promote health and educational readiness.” Millions of children receive free or reduced breakfast and lunch at schools around the country everyday.

The USDA spent around $21.7 billion on its Food and Nutrition Service Programs (FNS) in 2019. During the pandemic spending on these programs dropped significantly as children were at home and thus not receiving meals through their school.

There are few programs offered through the USDA including the National School Lunch Program, Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, and Child and Adult Care Food Program that helps to ensure low-income children and families have access to nutritional support. Each program supports a slightly different groups from a wide range of ages. All have the same eligibility requirements.

Who is eligible for Food and Nutrition Service programs?

Students from families who live:

  • ‘At or below 130 percent of the Federal poverty line can receive a free lunch.’
  • ‘Between 130 and 185 percent of the Federal poverty line can receive a reduce-price lunch.’
  • ‘Above 185 of the Federal poverty line can receive a low cost full-price lunch.’

Source: USDA

National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) helps to serve meals at over 100,000 public and non-profit private schools across the US. In 2019, almost thirty million children received a meal through the NSLP. addition, more than seventy percent of lunches distributed through the program were given out for free or at a reduced price.

The School Breakfast Program is only offered through 90,000 school sitesdelivering meals to around 14.8 million kids. Almost ninety perfect of these meals are provided at free or reduced price.

Are Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfers still available?

When the pandemic began, fears over children going hungry began to worry administrators, school district officials, parents, and political leaders. The USDA stepped in and established the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (PEBT) Program, which allowed for the sending of pre-paid debit cards to be sent to eligible families whose children were attending school virtually.

Some states like North Carolina have continued their PEBT program to ensure that the families of low-income students receive nutritional aid during periods where their child is required to self-isolate or quarantine.

Child and Adult Care Food Program

The Child and Adult Care Food Program provides “meals and snacks to children at child care centers, family day care homes, emergency shelters, and after-school programmes, and to older or functionally impaired adults at adult day care centers.”

Far more children than adults receive support through the program. In 2019, around 4.7 million children received meals through this program, while the number of adults was roughly 130,000.

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