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National School Lunch & Breakfast Programs

What is the National School Lunch Program?
The SNLP is a federally assisted meal program operating in nearly 95% of public and nonprofit private school and residential childcare institutions.  It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches.  Henrico County chose to follow the National School Lunch pattern required by the USDA. Established under the National School Lunch Act, the program was assigned into law by President Harry Truman in 1946. Congress expanded the NSLP to include reimbursement for snacks served to children in afterschool educational and enrichment programs.

How does the National School Lunch Program work?
School districts that choose to take part in the lunch program receive cash subsidies and donated commodities from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for each meal they serve.  In return, the schools serve lunches that meet Federal requirements and they must offer free or reduced price lunches to eligible children.  All other foods are typically served through vending machines, a la carte foods, fundraisers, class parties, etc.  These foods are often known as ‘competitive foods’ because they compete with the SNLP and NSBP and are not required to meet  federal law.  However, they are also increasingly being subject to local, county and state laws that require nutrition standards.

What are the nutritional requirements for school lunches?
School lunches must meet the recommendations of the 1995 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend that:

  • No more than 30 percent calories from fat and less than 10 percent calories from saturated fat in a one-week period is allowed.
  •  The standard for school lunches is to provide one-third of Recommended Dietary Allowances of protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium and calories over the course of one week of school lunch menus.
  • Invite students to choose from four entrees and a chef's salad daily, four to six fruits and vegetables and several flavors of milk.
  • Encourage students to eat healthy by providing a variety of foods.
  • Portion sizes meet or exceed the USDA requirements.
  • Offer availability of whole grain products.
  • Look for products with lower fat content that will be acceptable to students.
  • Have substantially lower intakes of added sugars than do non-participants.
  • Have fewer calories from fat than lunches from home.
  • Contain:
    • Three times as many dairy products than lunches from home
    • Twice as much fruit than lunches from home
    • Seven times the vegetable amounts than lunches from home

What comes with lunch?
Elementary School Menu provides:

  • One entrée (equivalent of 2 ounces of meat/meat alternative)
  • Bread/grain (examples include: sandwich buns or bread, crackers, breadstick, taco wrapper, dinner roll, spaghetti or macaroni, or corn chips)
  • Choice of 3 vegetables and/or fruits in elementary school (3/8 cup servings)
  • Milk (8 ounces)

Middle and High School Menu provides:

  • One entrée and milk portions are the same as elementary
  • Bread/grain (same as elementary except 2 dinner rolls are served)
  • Choice of 2 vegetables and/or fruits (1/2 cup servings)

Do all food items have to be taken?
The federal guidelines do not require all items be taken in order to have a complete, reimbursable meal. A minimum of three items are considered a complete lunch. There is no discount if all food items available are not taken. Teachers and School Nutrition Services staff can encourage students to take all items, but they cannot force or require it. This provision was put in place to reduce the amount of food waste.

Will my child still be able to get a school lunch when his or her class goes on a field trip?
Teachers are encouraged to order sack lunches for all students who want a lunch for a field trip.  This meal provides all the necessary food for a complete lunch and is the same price as the regular meal.  For the students that qualify, this sack lunch would be provided free or at a reduced price.

National School Breakfast Program

What is the School Breakfast Program?
The National School Breakfast Program is a federally assisted meal program that was enacted by Congress to ensure all children have access to a healthy breakfast at school to promote healthy eating behaviors and readiness for leaning.  The breakfast meal meets one-fourth of the key nutrients children need every day and contain the same requirements of calories from fat and saturated fat as lunches.

How does the School Breakfast Program work?
The School Breakfast Program operates in the same manner as the National School Lunch Program.  School districts that choose to take part in the breakfast program receive cash subsidies from the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for each meal they serve.  In return, they must serve breakfasts that meet Federal requirements and they must offer free or reduced price breakfasts to eligible children.

Does eating breakfast make a difference in school performance?
Eating breakfast should be as important a part of learning as doing homework. Studies show that students who eat a nutritious breakfast:

  • Perform better on tests
  • Are more alert and attentive
  • Cause less disciplinary problems
  • Have less absenteeism and tardiness

A Federal breakfast in the elementary, middle or high school will consist of any two or three of the following:

  • 8 ounces of milk
  • 4 ounces of fruit juice or ½ cup of fruit
  • A breakfast entrée such as cereal, toast, sausage and biscuit, waffles, pancakes, French toast sticks, or fruit turnover

Again this year, all schools are participating in the federal breakfast program!!

ANNOUNCEMENT: Carbohydrate Counts are again added to the Lunch and Breakfast Menus!
Henrico School Nutrition Services will continue to provide the total grams of carbohydrates for each food item on the monthly lunch and breakfast menus.  Carbohydrate is the main nutrient in food that provides energy.  One serving of a carbohydrate is 15g, according to the American Diabetes Association Carbohydrate Exchange List.  Most children should eat about 45-75g of carbohydrates per meal for a balanced diet. The grams listed on the menus are based on standardized HSNS recipes and are dependent upon the portion served.  All cafeteria staff is trained to follow the recipes written.  Total carbohydrates grams will be continually monitored and updated by a registered dietitian with Bon Secours Good Life Center

How to Apply for Free and Reduced Price Meals
Every year, a confidential application for “Free and Reduced Price Meals" will be mailed directly to all Henrico homes with registered students in the Henrico County Public School system in mid August.  Parents may return the completed application in the yellow pre-paid envelope included in the mailing.

Applications may also be obtained from your child's school or by calling School Nutrition Services at 226-5544. The Free and Reduced Meal Application will be available mid August.

Applications are available in Spanish by calling 226-5544. Applications in other languages are available by request through the Virginia State Department of Education.

A new application must be filled out every year (unless the student is directly certified by Social Services).  Only applications showing the current school year are accepted.

Only one application per household is necessary which is good for the entire school year.

The two exceptions are:

Foster Children - State regulations require that the foster parent(s) submit a separate application for each foster child.   A foster child is eligible for free meals regardless of household income upon receipt of application.

Children in Group Homes – State regulations require that the Group Home Representative submit a separate application for each child in the group home.  Children in group homes are eligible for free meals upon receipt of application.

Remember – an application cannot be processed if:
       - Incomplete information
       - Missing a signature
       - Not a current school year application form    
The reduced price for meals is 40 cents for lunch and 30 cents for breakfast.  Once approved for meal benefits, your child is entitled to one (1) breakfast and one (1) lunch each full school day.
Your child is entitled to (1) breakfast on ½ school days.

Approval is by federal guidelines based on household income. The USDA changes these income guidelines annually.  If you get SNAP (food stamps) or TANF, your child will be eligible for free meals. (Federal regulations require that you must fill out an application first along with the SNAP or TANF number.)

For additional instructions or questions on completing a confidential application for “Free and Reduced Price Meals", please call School Nutrition Services on weekdays between: 7:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. at 226-5544

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