Child Nutrition Programs

Agency: U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Food and Nutrition Service

Child Nutrition Programs

The Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers several child nutrition programs that are open to participation by nonprofit private schools. Information on the operation of any of the following programs is available from the State agency that administers Child Nutrition Programs (link provided below).

National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs; Afterschool Snacks

The National School Lunch (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Programs (SBP) provide cash and commodity assistance to schools that serve breakfast and lunches that meet the requirements established by law and regulations. Through these programs, schools provide nutritious meals to K-12 grade students, including free or reduced-price meals to students that qualify under the programs' poverty guidelines, which are adjusted annually for family size and income. Schools receive reimbursement for each meal served that meets program requirements. Schools participating in NSLP that have afterschool care programs may also qualify for reimbursement for snacks served to children in an eligible afterschool care program.

Special Milk Program

Schools not participating in other Federal Child Nutrition Programs may participate in the Special Milk Program (SMP). Schools in the NSLP or SBP may also participate in SMP to provide milk to children in half-day pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs if these children do not have access to the school meal programs. USDA reimburses participating schools for a portion of their expenditures in providing milk to students of all income levels. For children who receive milk for free, the USDA reimburses schools the net purchase price of the milk.

Child and Adult Care Food Program

Through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), schools operating an afterschool child care program in the attendance area of an elementary, middle or high school in which at least 50 percent of the enrolled children are certified for free or reduced-price school meals may offer nutritious snacks to children age 18 or younger. Program operators serve all snacks free and receive a reimbursement for each meal that complies with program requirements.

Summer Food Service Program

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides free nutritious meals to children 18 or younger in low-income areas during the summer months. SFSP sites may be approved as open or enrolled. Meals are served free to any child at an open site. Enrolled sites provide free meals to children enrolled in an activity program at the site where at least half of them are eligible for free and reduced-price meals. Camps may also participate in SFSP. They receive payments only for the meals served to children who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals. SFSP reimbursements are based on the number of reimbursable meals served multiplied by the combined operating and administrative rate for that meal.

Further Information:

  • State Agencies Administering Child Nutrition Programs
    Website: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd
    [NOTE: Select "Contact Us," and then select "Child Nutrition Programs."]

  • General Information about Food and Nutrition Service
    Website: http://www.fns.usda.gov/fns/

  • Child Nutrition Programs
    USDA Food and Nutrition Service
    Child Nutrition Division
    U.S. Department of Agriculture
    3101 Park Center Drive, Room 638
    Alexandria, VA 22302
    Telephone: (703) 305-2590
    Website: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/

Last Modified: 09/05/2019