National School Lunch Program

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This child nutrition program provides cash and commodity assistance to public and private nonprofit elementary and secondary schools and residential child care institutions to support lunches served to all children in schools and institutions that choose to participate; snacks served in after-school programs also are federally subsidized. While all lunches and snacks are federally assisted, larger federal subsidies generally are provided for meals (or after-school snacks) served to children from lower-income families: i.e., free or reduced-price lunches and snacks, as opposed to paid lunches and snacks. Each meal or snack is subsidized at legislatively established rates that are annually indexed for food-price inflation. The program is permanently authorized under Sections 4 and 11 of the National School Lunch Act, administered by the Food and Nutrition Service, and funded as an entitlement by annual agriculture appropriations acts.

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