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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 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.

Participation in the NSLP is voluntary. Parents cannot be required to complete applications for participation and schools are not required to participate in the program.

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

Grants & Funding

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.  

Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)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.  

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

Local Wellness Policies (LWP)

Per federal regulations, local education agencies (LEA) participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and/or School Breakfast Program are required to develop a Local Wellness Policy (LWP) that promotes the health of students and addresses the problem of childhood obesity. LWP’s are tailored to the unique needs of each LEA and present an opportunity to improve the health of each community. OSSE has created a template that LEAs may use to create their LWP. Using this template is not required and LEAs may choose to create their own policy from scratch. LEAs should review the Local Wellness Policy Checklist and Local Wellness Policy Requirements Memo before writing their policy. Both of these documents and the template can be downloaded from the attachments section below.

LWP’s must be updated at least every three years. All SFAs participating in the NSLP were required to submit a copy of their revised LWP with their application for 2017-18 school year. If not updated prior to then, an updated LWP will be required for the 2020-21 school year. The SFA may choose to complete the Local Wellness Policy Annual Self-Evaluation & Action Plan tool each year a revision is not required in order to assess implementation of the LWP for the current school year and develop an action plan for the coming school year. This tool is not required. The tool may be downloaded from the attachments section below.

For more information regarding the federal requirements, please review the USDA’s webpage on Local School Wellness Policies. For more information regarding the local requirements, please read the Healthy Schools Act (HSA) of 2010.

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

HealthierUS School Challenge: Smarter Lunchrooms

The HealthierUS School Challenge: Smarter Lunchrooms (HUSSC: SL) is a voluntary certification initiative through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), recognizing those schools that have created healthier school environments through the promotion of nutrition and physical activity.

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) 724-7861
Contact Fax: 
(202) 531-2680
Contact TTY: 
711
Contact Suite #: 
Sixth Floor
Service Location: 

1050 First Street, NE

GIS Address: 
1050 First Street, NE
City: 
Washington
State: 
DC
Zip: 
20002