The Texas School Lunch and Breakfast Program
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Buying groceries to feed an entire household on a limited income can be a challenge. Sometimes, families struggle with making food last until groceries are able to be bought again. In these situations, nutritious foods may be substituted for lower priced foods, which tend to have little to no nutritional value. In the worst cases, a family may have issues with maintaining a healthy level of nutrition in their diet because of a lack of access to nutritious foods. Malnutrition or an unhealthy diet can cause chronic health problems and can cause pregnant women to be susceptible to high-risk pregnancies. Children are the most vulnerable in these situations, as they are growing rapidly and need all the nutrients they can get. It is essential for children and adolescents to receive an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals in order to maintain cognitive and physical health as they are growing.
Under the National School Lunch Act, the Texas Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Division has created the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) to help support families with children in need of nutrition assistance in the state of Texas. These programs exist to make sure schoolchildren are able to get a free or discounted meal at least twice each day. Both NSLP and SBP are dedicated to making sure that children learn healthy eating habits and have access to nutritious food on a regular basis. Providing both lunch and breakfast to children who may not have eaten otherwise may even improve their school performance because it fuels them with the energy they need to stay focused during class. NSLP and SBP provide free lunch to over 3 million children in Texas each year.
Under the Obama administration, the nutritional standards have become more rigorous for breakfast and lunch provided through NSLP and SBP. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act has increased the nutrition qualifications for school lunch and breakfast for the first time in 15 years. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act provides schools with more money to purchase high quality, nutritious food for students. This legislation has made it mandatory for every school district to participate in this program so that children receiving free or reduced lunch are getting all of the nutrition they need to grow up healthy.
The National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program are both available for school aged children living in the state of Texas based on financial need. The child must be attending a child care institution, a juvenile detention center, or a public or nonprofit school in Texas. NSLP and SBP are available for children attending high school and under.
To qualify for NSLP and SBP, the total annual household income must be:
- Households of 1: $21,978 or less
- Households of 2: $29,637 or less
- Households of 3: $37,296 or less
- Households of 4: $44,955 or less
- Households of 5: $52,614 or less
- Households of 6: $60,273 or less
- Households of 7: $67,950 or less
- Households of 8: $75,646 or less
- Households of 9+: Add $7,696 or each additional family member
To apply for the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program, the parent or guardian of the child must apply within the Texas school district in which he or she attends school. Each school district has a different application process, which may be completed online or over the phone depending on the district. Each district website has different resources to assist the parent or guardian in the application process and conditions. Depending on the applicant’s financial circumstances, the child may be granted free or reduced breakfast and lunch at school.