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National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally funded meal program operating in public, public charter, and nonprofit private schools as well as residential child care institutions (RCCIs). The NSLP provides cash subsidies to assist schools with meeting meal costs while providing students nutritious lunches during the school day. OSSE’s Division of Healthy and Wellness (HW) School Programs Team administers the NSLP for the District of Columbia and ensures that all participating schools meet the guidelines, rules and regulations as required by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Schools must apply to participate on an annual basis and are required to meet certain nutrition, meal, and administrative requirements.  In addition, schools must provide free and reduced priced lunches to those children who are eligible. Children qualify for free and reduced priced meals based upon income guidelines established by the USDA on an annual basis.

Schools receive funding for the NSLP by being reimbursed for eligible lunches served. An “eligible” lunch is one that meets all the nutrition and meal pattern requirements set forth by the federal regulations. These are often called “reimbursable meals”. How much a school is reimbursed depends on how many of each category of meals is served; free, reduced and paid. Eligible lunches served to children who qualify for free meals are reimbursed at a higher rate than those meals served to children who qualify for paid meals.

Additional information on the program can be found at the USDA National School Lunch Program (NSLP) page.

Grants & Funding

Healthier US Schools Challenge (HUSSC)


How to Apply

School Food Authorities (SFAs) can apply for the NSLP (including the School Breakfast Program and Afterschool Snack Program) through Orchard. Orchard is OSSE’s web-based solution that supports online submission of federal Child Nutrition Program applications.  

Every private school in the District of Columbia is eligible to participate in the federal meals programs. Private schools interested in learning more are encouraged to listen to the Introduction to the National School Lunch Program for Private Schools webinar, providing information on all child nutrition programs, eligibility, benefits, and next steps.

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a non-pricing meal service option for schools and school districts in low-income areas. CEP allows the highest poverty schools and districts to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled students without collecting household applications. Instead, schools that adopt CEP are reimbursed using a formula based on the percentage of students categorically eligible for free meals based on their participation in other specific means-tested programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). District of Columbia schools eligible for CEP can be found below for each school year.  

Recommendations for Outdoor Meal Service Tip Sheet

Additional information on CEP can be found on the USDA Community Eligibility Provision page.  

Local Wellness Policies (LWP)

Per federal regulations, local education agencies (LEAs) participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and/or School Breakfast Program (SBP) are required to develop a Local Wellness Policy (LWP) that promotes the health of students and addresses the problem of childhood obesity. LWPs are tailored to the unique needs of each LEA and present an opportunity to improve the health of each community. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) has created a template that LEAs may use to create their LWP. Using the OSSE template is optional. OSSE recommends that LEAs review the Local Wellness Policy Checklist and Local Wellness Policy Guide before writing their policy. The guide, checklist, and template are available on the OSSE Local Wellness Policy landing page.

LWPs must be updated at least every three years. All LEAs participating in the NSLP are required to submit a copy of their revised LWP with their application and will be reviewed by OSSE as part of the Administrative Review. For more information regarding the federal requirements, please review the OSSE Local Wellness Policy landing page, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) webpage on Local School Wellness Policies, and CDC’s Local Wellness Policy page. For more information regarding the local requirements, please refer to DC Code § 38–826.01 et seq.

For questions, contact [email protected].

Administrative Review Findings

The Administrative Review provides a comprehensive evaluation of school meals programs of SFAs participating in the NSLP. Administrative Reviews are conducted at a minimum, once in every three-year cycle. Summaries of the most recent final Administrative Review results for each SFA are listed below.

For additional resources, please visit our Training & Resources Page.

Service Contact: 
Elizabeth Leach, School Programs Manager
Contact Email: 
Contact Phone: 
(202) 531-2680
Contact TTY: 
Contact Suite #: 
Sixth Floor
Service Location: 

1050 First Street, NE

GIS Address: 
1050 First Street, NE