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Child Nutrition Programs for the New School Year

Healthy eating habits and a nutritious diet can help children do better in school.

The federal government provides free or low-cost Child Nutrition Programs in more than 100,000 public schools, nonprofit private schools, kindergartens and preschools.

These programs, provided by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service, are aimed at school-aged children from low-income families.

1. National School Breakfast and Lunch Program

Through this program children may receive breakfast and lunch for free or at a reduced cost. The price you pay for meals depends on which state you live in and your income level.

If your children attend a school that’s enrolled in the National School Lunch Program, they are eligible to receive breakfast and lunch daily throughout the academic year.

Note: Some schools also provide free snacks to children who attend certain after-school programs.

Program features

  • It’s available for children and students under 18.
  • It’s offered throughout the school year at public schools, nonprofit private schools, and preschools.
  • The breakfast and lunch menu is the same for every student.
  • Everyone receives equal portions that meet USDA nutritional requirements.

How to enroll

Contact or visit your child’s school to find about the program requirements and application process. Enrollment procedures may vary depending on the school.

2. Special Milk Program

Milk is provided free or at a reduced cost to children who are not already enrolled in any other USDA program. The price of milk depends on which state you live in and your income level.

Program features

  • Milk is available throughout the year at schools, nurseries, half-day pre-kindergartens and kindergartens.
  • The milk contains vitamins A and D, is low in fat and meets the standards of the USDA.
  • Every student receives the same kind of milk and quantity, one cup or ¼-liter.

How to enroll

To participate in the Special Milk Program, contact or visit your child’s school and ask about the program requirements and application process.

Contact your USDA state agency for more information about child nutrition programs.

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