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  • What is that National School Lunch Program?

    The NSLP is a voluntary program available to all public schools, private schools, and residential child care institutions which agree to operate a non-profit program offering lunches meeting federal requirements to all children in attendance. Through the NSLP, public and non-profit private schools, preprimary classes in schools, and residential child care institutions receive cash reimbursement for each meal served. Participation in the program is voluntary. The sponsors of the program must:

    • Serve meals that meet federal requirements,
    • Operate a non-profit program,
    • Offer free or reduced-price meals to eligible children based on household income,
    • Not identify nor discriminate against any eligible student, and
    • Operate food service for all students without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.

 Who qualifies for free or reduced-price lunches?

Any child at a participating school may purchase a meal through the NSLP. Participating schools and institutions must provide free and reduced-price breakfasts to eligible children. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-price meals. Children from families with incomes over 185 percent of poverty pay full price, though their meals are still subsidized to some extent.​

 How are sponsors reimbursed for m​eals?

The sponsors receive reimbursement based on the number of meals served to children per category: free, reduced-price, and paid. Schools can charge no more than 40 cents for a reduced-price lunch. USDA sets no limit on the amount schools can charge for a full-price meal. However, the sponsors must operate their meal services as non-profit programs.

For the NSLP, extra reimbursement is available for those sponsors who have 60% more free and reduced-price lunches served in the second preceding year.

 What are the meal nutrition requirements?

School meals must meet Federal nutrition requirements.

 What are the sponsor's responsibilities for administering the program?

Administrative responsibilities for the program include:

  • Maintain financial records to ensure non-profit status,
  • Provided applications for meal benefits to each household,
  • Approve and/or deny applications for meal benefits,
  • Verify current income from a sample of households selected,
  • Ensure meals meet federal nutrient standards,
  • Take meal count at the point of service,
  • Conduct a monthly edit of meal counts,
  • Conduct an on-site review of each school to ensure accurate counting and claiming of meals,
  • Submit claims for reimbursement, and
  • Competitively bid for purchased food, supplies, equipment, and services

An annual application must be submitted each year in order to apply for funding. Applications are for the federal fiscal year, October 1 through September 30.​

 How can you apply​ to become a sponsor?

To apply to be a new sponsor in the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Special Milk, Illinois Free Breakfast and Lunch, and Food Distribution Program, click on the link below to obtain the forms you need to complete for the programs in which you choose to participate. New applications may be submitted at any time. Applications are valid from the date of approval through September 30 each year.

 Are there any additional application requirements?

Private Non-profit Schools: In addition to the above forms, private non-profit schools must be registered as a school by the Illinois State Board of Education and submit a copy of the tax exempt letter showing status under the section 501(C)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Private Residential Child Care Institutions: Private residential child care institutions must submit a license or a document indicating that a license is not required.​

 How does an SFA contract with a Food Service Management Company or Vendor?

School food authorities may contract with a food service management company or vendor to provide their meal services. You are required to meet or exceed federal procurement procedures and regulations that govern Child Nutrition Programs when developing the bid documents and awarding the contract. To ensure compliance with federal procurement procedures, school food authorities must submit formal contract documents to our office for review prior to seeking bids.​​

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