National School Lunch Program: Trends and Factors Affecting Student Participation

Source: Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), January 2015

From the press release:
The number of children participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is changing in ways that reflect events other than changes in nutrition rules, finds a new analysis by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). The data analysis shows that lower family incomes and improvements to the eligibility process for school meals have led to a continuous increase in participation among low-income children; and rules on pricing of meals for other children have contributed to a multi-year decline in participation for those with higher family incomes. FRAC also noted these changes both are part of longer trends.

In the recent debate over new nutrition standards for school meals, some have claimed the nutrition rules are driving participation down. The new nutrition rules, however, were introduced in the 2012-2013 school year, in order to bring school meals in line with current dietary guidelines. FRAC’s analysis reveals that these participation changes have been percolating for a number of years with multiple factors at play. …..