Pros & Cons Of The US National School Lunch Program

School Lunch Program
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The role of schools in nourishing our young minds and bodies cannot be overstated. For many students from low-income families, the meals provided at school may be the only source of balanced nutrition they receive daily. However, not all families are able to take part in school meal programs due to a lack of funding. This is where the National School Lunch Program steps in, providing free or reduced-cost meals that are federally subsidized, thus ensuring that all students have access to the nourishment they need to thrive academically.

Although the National School Lunch Program is a highly appreciated program on one hand, it is also criticized due to public cost and other reasons. In this article, let’s look at the pros and cons of the US National School Lunch Program.

Pros Of NLSP

1. Helps Children Receive Better Education

Providing nourishing meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) can greatly enhance children’s education experience. Hunger can impede a child’s capacity to focus and learn, making it difficult for them to receive a quality education. By ensuring that children have access to nutritious meals, the NSLP addresses a fundamental aspect of their ability to learn and helps to bridge any nutritional gaps that may exist at home.

2. Improves The All Round Health Of The Kids

The National School Lunch Program’s adherence to nutritional standards is one of its most significant advantages. These standards, which are based on the most recent scientific research on nutrition, are crucial for the growth and development of children. By meeting children’s basic nutritional needs, the program promotes their overall health and well-being. As a result, children are less prone to illnesses and absenteeism, enabling them to focus better in school.

3. Helps Combat Childhood Hunger

The National School Lunch Program’s provision of free and low-cost school lunches is an effective way to combat childhood hunger. This became particularly crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic when nationwide closures forced the USDA to extend the program and offer meals to anyone under 18 through the summer. The program also expanded to provide meal pickup and home delivery options, ensuring that children could continue to access the nutritious meals they rely on, at no extra cost to their parents.

4. Provides Relief To The Underprivileged Families

The program is a lifeline for families living below 130 to 185 percent of the federal poverty line. This equates to an annual income of $26,208 to $37,296 for a family of three. The program guarantees that these families will only have to pay a maximum of 40% of the cost per lunch, providing much-needed relief for their tight budget.

Cons Of NLSP

1. Quality Of Food

A significant issue that is often raised about the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is the quality of food offered. Preparing healthier food options is often more expensive, and many schools lack the necessary funding to improve the quality of the meals they offer, which is one of the most significant criticisms of the program.

2. Heath Concerns

While it is true that any food is better than none, research suggests that students who consume school-provided hot lunches on a regular basis are more likely to be overweight or obese, as compared to those who bring their own lunches. Additionally, inadequate nutrition in children can lead to cognitive delays.

3. Wastage Of Food

One of the downsides of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is the high amount of food waste generated. The quality of ingredients used in the meals provided is often criticized and not appealing to many students. As a result, students end up discarding their food, and a significant amount of school lunches go un-eaten and ultimately wasted. This is an unfortunate consequence of the program.


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Pankaj Majumder, a seasoned Civil Engineer, combines technical expertise with a passion for innovative infrastructure solutions. With a strong academic background and diverse project experience, he excels in creating sustainable and resilient structures that shape the future of urban development.