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School Nutrition Programs

Overview

School Nutrition Programs provide healthy, nutritious meals through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program to students in West Virginia schools. Schools may also offer Afterschool Snacks to students participating in educational and/or enrichment activities after the end of the school day. Schools that do not participate in other meal programs may provide a daily serving of milk to students through the Special Milk Program. In low-income areas, schools are encouraged to provide meals through the Seamless Summer Option, a streamlined approach to filling the nutrition gap during the summer months.

National School Lunch Program

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions since 1946. The program provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to school children. School meals contribute to student learning success, while positively affecting their health and nutrition.

NSLP operates through agreements between the West Virginia Department of Education, the state administering agency, and the Local Education Agency (LEA) or other sponsor. Participating school districts and independent schools receive cash subsidies and donated commodities from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for each meal served. In return, sponsors must serve lunches that meet federal and state requirements, while offering free or reduced-price lunches to children whose families are income eligible.

Effective SY 2012-2013, lunch meals will offer a minimum of 5 components (fruits, vegetables, grains, meat/meat alternate and milk) and must also meet dietary specifications for calories, sodium, saturated fat and trans fat.

While lunches must meet healthy meal standards set at federal and state levels, local sponsors make decisions about specific foods and menus, and plan special menus for children with medically ordered special diets.

Farm-to-School

The Farm-to-School initiative is an effort to connect schools (K – 12) with regional or local farms in order to serve healthy meals using locally produced foods. Incorporating locally grown, farm-fresh produce as part of a school nutrition program creates a relationship that positively impacts the farm, the community and, most importantly, students in our schools. These programs connect schools with local farms to serve healthy meals in school cafeterias, improve student nutrition (e.g. by increasing fruit and vegetable consumption), provide health and nutrition education opportunities and support local farmers.

Schools and communities may initiate and implement a variety of Farm to School activities. Some school districts’ Farm to School activities may solely involve purchasing local farm products, while others view their school garden and farm field trips as “Farm to School.” Each school district must decide how related farm to school activities can complement and support their school meal programs.

School Breakfast Program

The School Breakfast Program (SBP) is a federal program available to public schools, non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions. Schools and institutions that choose to take part in the School 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 meal pattern and dietary specifications, and they must offer free or reduced price breakfast to eligible children.

Effective SY 2013-2014, breakfast meals will offer a minimum of 3 components (fruits, grains and milk) and must also meet dietary specifications for calories, sodium, saturated fat and trans fat.

The SBP provides a good start to the school day. Eating a balanced meal in the morning can make a major difference in the overall health and well-being of children. Evidence shows that children who participate in school breakfast eat more fruits, drink more milk, and consume a wider variety of foods than those who don’t eat breakfast or have breakfast at home – they are also less likely to be overweight!

Meals not only contribute to children’s nutritional health, but also to school performance. Specifically, studies indicate that students who routinely eat a well-balanced breakfast perform better on standardized tests, have higher math scores and have lower rates of tardiness and absenteeism.

Afterschool Snacks

Afterschool Snacks, part of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), provides cash reimbursement to schools and residential child care centers to serve snacks to children who participate in afterschool education or enrichment programs.

To be eligible to participate in the afterschool snack program, sponsors must provide educational or enrichment activities in an organized, structured, and supervised environment after the end of the school day. Competitive interscholastic sports teams are not an eligible afterschool program. The school or residential child care center must also operate the lunch component of the NSLP.

In locations deemed area eligible, snacks are served free to all participating children. Area eligible programs are located in the attendance area of a public school (an elementary, middle, or high school) where at least 50 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced price meals under the NSLP. The West Virginia Department of Education has current data for all public schools to help determine area eligibility.

Schools that do not meet the area eligibility criteria may also participate and offer snacks to children based on individual eligibility status (free, reduced price or paid).

Snacks served to children must be nutritious. At a minimum, they must provide at least two different components of the following four: (1) fluid milk; (2) meat or meat alternate; (3) vegetables or fruits or full-strength vegetable or fruit juice; and (4) whole-grain or enriched bread or cereal.

Schools that are area eligible are encouraged to provide meals (i.e. supper) to children as part of their afterschool program; these schools may participate in the CACFP At-Risk Afterschool Snack and Supper Program.

Seamless Summer Option

Kids still need good food, even when school is out. Now it’s easy to accommodate them! The Seamless Summer Option (SSO) is designed to encourage school food authorities (SFAs) to provide meals during summer and other school vacation periods. This option combines features of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

The Seamless Summer Option makes it easy for SFAs to feed hungry children in low-income areas year-round by reducing paperwork and administrative burden. SFAs would continue to follow the same meal service rules and claiming procedures used during the regular school year to feed children during the traditional summer vacation periods and, for year-round schools, school vacation periods longer than 10 school days.

Meals served under the SSO are reimbursed at the “free” rates prescribed by USDA for the NSLP (including snacks) and for the SBP. Supper meals are reimbursed at the NSLP’s free lunch rate.

Although the traditional Summer Food Service Program is still an available option to schools, the Seamless Summer Option offers a streamlined approach to feeding hungry children.

Special Milk Program

The Special Milk Program (SMP) is a federal program that provides milk to students in participating private or nonpublic schools, half-day pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs where access to the National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program is not available. Camps operating during the summer months may also participate in the SMP. Children may buy milk or receive it free, depending on the choice of program options of the school/camp. The program encourages the consumption of fluid milk, while helping to defray the cost by providing the reimbursement for each half pint of milk served to children.

Schools or institutions must offer only pasteurized fluid types of unflavored or flavored fat free or low-fat (1%) fluid milk. These milks must meet all State and local standards. All milk should contain vitamins A and D at levels specified by the Food and Drug Administration.

Special Milk Program sponsors are required to adhere to regulations regarding milk standards and accurate program administration. Training, technical assistance and support are available through the West Virginia Department of Education.