National School Lunch Program

The Ohio Department of Education, Office for Child Nutrition, in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), administers the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Special Milk, After School Care Snack, and Government Donated Food (Commodity) Programs among others.

Nationally, over 25 million students in over 90 thousand schools and agencies participate in Child Nutrition Programs, making them one of the country’s largest food service operations. Ohio’s food service programs serve over 1 million meals daily at over 4,000 sites. The goals of the Child Nutrition Programs are to: safeguard the health and well being of the nation’s children; encourage domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural foods; give children an understanding of the relationship between proper eating habits and good health. Who can apply to participate in the lunch program? Any school of high school grade or under recognized by the State of Ohio as operating under public or nonprofit private ownership. Any public or nonprofit classes of pre-primary grades when conducted in the aforementioned schools. Any public or nonprofit, private licensed Residential Child Care Institution (RCCI).

Guidance, Handbooks, Regulations, and Policy Memorandums

For the most recent guidance and resources, handbooks, legislation, policy memos, press releases, and regulation updates on the National School Lunch Program, visit the USDA Food and Nutrition Service websites linked above.

Ohio Policy Memorandums:

What qualifies a student to participate?

Any student of high school grade or under who is enrolled in an eligible school, or a student under age 21 who resides in an RCCI may participate. Additional benefits may be available to a student when his or her parent or guardian submits a free and reduced-price school meals application. Based on the household size and income, the student may be eligible for meals free or at a reduced price. Schools may charge no more than $0.40 for a reduced-price lunch. Paid meal prices must meet USDA regulations: Paid meal prices must be at least the difference between the free and paid rates of reimbursement. Schools must operate their meal services as non-profit programs.

What are the meal service requirements for lunch?

To be eligible for meal reimbursement and government donated foods, participating schools and agencies must prepare and serve meals that meet federal requirements. The reimbursable meal must be priced as a unit, and available to all students regardless of their ability to pay. Meal service for lunch must be between 10:00AM and 2:00PM.

Schools must follow the food-based menu planning option as was adopted into federal regulations in July 2011. Menus must meet minimum daily and weekly quantities and types of food items, including meat or meat alternate, vegetables and vegetable subgroups, fruits, whole grain-rich products and milk.

Schools must also ensure that children are provided a variety of milk options (choice of at least two types). Select from the following to offer with meals: 1% plain, unflavored; fat-free plain, unflavored; fat-free flavored milk. For more information on the meal pattern, please visit:

What reimbursement will the school or agency receive?

The school or agency is reimbursed for each complete meal served to an eligible student. Reimbursement rates are applied based on the student’s eligibility category paid full-price, reduced-price, or free. The school is responsible for accurately counting the meals served to students daily by eligibility category. In addition, a government donated food entitlement is earned for each lunch served. What records must be kept?  

The following are required records that must be kept for three school years plus the current year:

Daily menus and production records, daily meal count and cash receipt worksheets (CN-7), free and reduced-price school meals applications, monthly inventories of food, labor and supplies, monthly records of program costs, verification records, records of on-site accountability reviews (if more than one site). To apply for one of the Child Nutrition Programs or to obtain additional information, please contact the Office for Child Nutrition.

National School Lunch Program Documents


Last Modified: 3/17/2017 10:26:02 AM