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The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operating in more than 99,800 public and non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions.
It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to more than 26 million children each school day.
The Food and Nutrition Service administers the program at the federal level. At the state level, the National School Lunch Program is usually administered by state education agencies, which operate the program through agreements with school food authorities.
Currently, the Louisiana Department of Education has 132 school food authorities and 1579 schools participating in this program.
The National School Lunch Act mandates that school meals"safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation's children.”
Participating schools must serve lunches that are consistent with the applicable recommendations of the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, including eat a variety of foods, choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables and fruits, choose a diet moderate in sugars and salt, and choose a diet with 30 or less of calories from fat and less than 10 of calories from saturated fat.
In addition, lunches must provide, on average over each school week, at least 1/3 of the daily Recommended Dietary Allowances for protein, iron, calcium, and vitamins A and C.
To provide local food service professionals with flexibility, there are four menu planning approaches to plan healthful and appealing meals. The choice of what specific foods are served and how they are prepared and presented are made by local schools.