School lunch is critical to student health and well-being, especially for low-income students—and ensures that students have nutrition they need throughout the day to learn. Research shows that receiving free or reduced-price school lunches reduces food insecurity, obesity rates, and poor health. In addition, the new school meal nutrition standards are having a positive impact on student food selection and consumption, especially for fruits and vegetables.


  • Reimbursable meals must meet federal nutrition standards. National School Lunch Program lunches provide one-third or more of the recommended levels for key nutrients.
  • Reimbursable meals must provide no more than 30 percent of calories from fat and less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat.
  • New nutrition standards phased in since the 2012-2013 school year required schools to increase whole grains, fruits, and vegetables served through the National School Lunch Program.
  • Meeting Children’s Nutritional Needs Leads to a Better Learning Environment
    • Behavioral, emotional, and mental health, and academic problems are more prevalent among children and adolescents struggling with hunger.
    • Children and adolescents experiencing hunger have lower math scores and poorer grades.
    • Children experiencing hunger are more likely to be hyperactive, absent, and tardy, in addition to having behavioral and attention problems more often than other children.
    • Teens experiencing hunger are more likely to have been suspended from school and have difficulty getting along with other children.
    • Children with hunger are more likely to have repeated a grade, received special education services, or received mental health counseling, than low-income children who do not experience hunger.

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