USDA: How does the National School Lunch Program work?
Generally, public or nonprofit private schools of high school grade or under and public or
nonprofit private residential child care institutions may participate in the school lunch program.
School districts and independent schools that choose to take part in the lunch program get cash
subsidies and USDA foods from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for each meal they
serve. In return, they must serve lunches that meet Federal requirements, and they must offer free
or reduced price lunches to eligible children. School food authorities can also be reimbursed for
snacks served to children through age 18 in afterschool educational or enrichment programs