Sometimes we tend to think of school lunch programs as a relatively new idea that came into fruition in the past few years. The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. This program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946. At the end of 1947 about 7.1 million children were participating in the National School Lunch Program. By 1970, 22 million children were participating, and by 1980 the figure was nearly 27 million. In 1990, over 24 million children ate school lunch every day. In Fiscal Year 2011, more than 31.8 million children each day got their lunch through the National School Lunch Program. Since this program began, more than 224 billion lunches have been served across these United States.
As times and needs have changed, so has the National School Lunch Program. In 1998, Congress expanded the National School Lunch Program to include reimbursement for snacks served to children in afterschool educational and enrichment programs to include children through 18 years of age. Then the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 directed USDA to update the NSLP’s meal pattern and nutrition standards based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The new meal requirements went into effect with the 2012-13 school year. It increased the availability of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in the school menu. New dietary specifications set specific calorie limits to ensure age-appropriate meals for grades K-5, 6-8, and 9-12. Other meal enhancements included gradual reductions in the sodium content. While school lunches must meet Federal meal requirements, decisions about what specific foods to serve and how they are prepared are made by local school food authorities.
Now we add to that the Summer Food Service Program. The SFSPC was created to serve nutritious meals to children when National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program meals are not available. This program ensures that all Indiana children 18 years of age and under receive proper nutrition throughout the year.
Rush County Schools launched their Free Summer Lunch program in 2012 serving a little over 5,000 lunches at two sites. In its second year (2013) the program expanded to four sites and served 6,037 lunches. The numbers served are: Rushville Consolidated High School 2,151; Laughlin Park 398; Rushville Elementary School East 3,040; and Booker T. Washington 448 lunches served.
“This is a wonderful program that fills a gap in the nutritional needs of our students during the summer. We look forward to bringing the Free Summer Lunch program again next year,” stated Norene Wright, Program Director.
Marianne Scott is the Legacy Fund director/information officer with Rush County Schools.