School meals provide a critical stopgap for Minnesota’s hungry kids

December 12, 2017 By: Morgan Croft-Schornak, Advocacy Intern

School lunch programs, including the free and reduced lunch program for low-income children, provide vital nutrition every day. This program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Truman in 1946 and it provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children during the school day.

For children to receive meals, they must be determined eligible. Eligibility is determined based on income and can be done through participation in certain Federal Assistance Programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps as its commonly known) or Head Start. The meals provided must meet federal meal pattern requirements.

School meals provide important access to nutrition to numerous children every year. During the 2015 to 2016 school year, 323,531 children – or nearly 4 out of 10 students enrolled in Minnesota public schools – were eligible for free and reduced-price lunch. Recent studies show that an alarming proportion of kids in suburban schools are missing out on these meals.

Benefits of the school meal program include:

  • Providing one-third or more of the recommended levels for key nutrients, which they may not have access to otherwise.
  • Reducing food insecurity by at least 3.8 percent.
  • 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.
  • Based on national data, economists estimate that the receipt of a free or reduced-price school lunch reduces obesity rates by at least 17 percent.

Creating more awareness about the need to feed hungry Minnesota kids at school and investing in critical federal funding for the school lunch program is a priority of our advocacy work.

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