Who pays for free school lunches?

Asking about the free meals for low income k-12 students. Is it a federal program, or something schools do on their own?


The Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (1945), the Child Nutrition Act (1966), and the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 are the relevant federal laws.

Under the National School Lunch Act (1946), the federal government provides cash subsidies and sometimes free surplus foods to school districts that opt to participate in the program by providing free meals to kids from families that meet the income criteria. National School Lunch Act - Wikipedia

Not all school districts choose to participate in the federal program. The USDA pays about $3 per meal served, but the subsidy comes with fairly strict (and frequently changing) nutritional guidelines that aren’t always easy to follow at that price. 524 schools drop out of the national school lunch program | PBS NewsHour

In Utah, the profits from the sales of the state run liquor stores pay for the program.

Or, at least they used to. Don’t know about today.

About half a penny from every US tax dollar collected as of 2012 (not quite true, since borrowing covers some of that and calculating the interest from the borrowing could be complicated, so assuming borrowing covered non of the School Lunch Program)… https://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/NSLPFactSheet.pdf

$11.6 billion in FY2012 to feed 31.6 million children, out of a total federal government income that year of $2450 billion.*
[sub]*Total expenditures FY2012 were $3537 billion, so on average, 0.3¢ of each tax dollar paid to school lunches, and 0.15¢ of each borrowed dollar went to pay for school lunches.[/sub]

We all do, of course. Personally, I think making sure the next generation gets adequate nutrition is a worthwhile endeavor for society at large.

I expect in at least some areas various charities and local governments might also get involved. But yes, as already mentioned, this is a Federal program.

Where these programs fall short is on the weekends and during holiday breaks. In some places there are local efforts to provide a “backpack” lunch program for those gapped periods, and food banks for supplemental family fare. If you’re looking for a good local charity, look into the food bank to either donate or provide deliveries.


According to my Blue Bonnet margarine tub, their participation in the Child Hunger Ends Here campaign contributed to ten million meals for children, each of them costing nine cents through local food banks. So apparently it doesn’t cost very much to feed a child. Until you subcontract that 9 cents worth of food through for-profit providers, who bid on the rights to furnish school lunches.

A very large number of school districts just contract with the lowest bidder to assemble some crap in a tray that can be re-warmed in a school kitchen. My neighbor, who goes and has lunch with her grand-daughter at school once in a while, says sometimes it’s not even fully thawed, and they charge adults $2.50 to go and eat with the kiddies.

Something like 47 percent don’t pay any federal taxes at all. “We all do” is false.

Income taxes are not the only federal taxes. There are excise taxes, customs duties, etc.

Income taxes don’t even provide the majority of funding for the federal government - they’re at about 40% of federal revenue. They are perhaps the single largest chunk - a plurality of funding rather than a majority.

How many people pay excise or customs?

Everybody who buys gasoline or cigarettes, for starters.

How about everybody in NY City and Washington D.C. (and other places) that don’t drive at all? What are they paying to the federal government?

Along with this when I used to teach in the inner city was one problem was kids showing up just to get their free lunch and then leaving school.

So we started a program that if they didnt attend, they didnt get to eat. Or if they got into trouble they didnt get to eat. Of course, the media got ahold of it and the school was the bad guy.
Dont think all the kids were “poor” either. I often saw kids going to the vending machines and buying $2-$3 worth of junk to go along with their free lunches.

The kids that my wife and I provide for are carefully vetted by both the teachers and the counselors. They are intimately familiar with the family situations and approach the parents to see if they need help, not the other way around. Family members are required to come to the school to pick up the lunches. Failure to do so can result in removal from the program. In the three years we’ve been doing this, that has never happened. I can’t speak to the fed program or any other efforts.

There are a number of free breakfast and lunch sites for children during summer breaks in my city, usually operated out of a church, school, or other public building with a commercial kitchen. These sites allow any children who show up to eat for free, and adults are requested to pay a donation to reduce the possibility of them taking advantage of it, since they are not considered public soup kitchens. There’s also the controversial “backpack” programs, where qualified children are given packaged food to take home on the weekend. That program had to be stopped in my old town because authorities discovered that most of the food was not being eaten by the kids; it was eaten by the parents, or more commonly traded for meth and other drugs. :mad:

This may be where some of those resources are going.

I volunteered at a food pantry one summer when I was in college. It was a very interesting experience, and the biggest surprise to me was who used it the most.

More than 50% of their clientele were senior citizens.

It costs money to administer programs like this, and a large part of that administration is spent on figuring out just who should and should not qualify. Once a school gets above a certain threshold of needy students, it becomes cheaper to just offer the free lunch to everyone, so you can cut the costs of vetting.