A service of the US government that helps 27 million children eat lunch whether their parents can afford it or not.

The thinking behind this, altruism aside, is that hungry students cannot learn as easily as those who have gotten enough nourishment. The brain needs food, and for some kids in the US, a school lunch may be the only substantial meal they're likely to see.

So, at a cost of about $5 billion per year, Big Government feeds poor kids to make sure that they can benefit from their education and grow up to escape poverty.

Enough with the politics: here's how it works.

A school signs up for the program by filling out paperwork promising to:

  • serve lunches that meet certain standards of nutrition,
  • offer free or cheap lunch, depending on how poor the student's family is,
  • not discriminate against students for various reasons,
  • and not identify students who participate.

In return, the Food and Nutrition Service of the USDA provides reimbursement and donated food, along with education for the lunch ladies to make sure cafeteria staff are aware of things like vitamins and minerals.

Students are eligible for a free lunch each school day if their family's income is no more than 30% above the poverty level ($22,925 for a family of four), and for a cheap lunch if their family makes no more than 85% over the poverty line ($32,653 for a family of four). Other students pay whatever the school charges, but schools in the National School Lunch Program are required to do this on a nonprofit basis, so Lunch Lady Doris can't engage in price gouging without losing the reimbursement and the government cheese.

SOURCE: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Lunch/

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