SNA CEO Comments on FRAC Report on Lunch Participation



Contact: Diane Pratt-Heavner  


SNA CEO Comments on FRAC Report on Lunch Participation  


NATIONAL HARBOR, MD – Today, the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) released a report on participation trends in the National School Lunch Program. School Nutrition Association (SNA) CEO Patricia Montague, CAE, has issued the following statement in response to the report:

“This report ignores the fact that 1.4 million fewer students are participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) each day since the new nutrition standards took effect, according to USDA. This trend threatens the financial stability of school meal programs and the ability to better serve students.”

“Without a doubt, economic trends and efforts to reach more low income students have caused a redistribution of students from the paid meal category to the free and reduced price category. However, despite this trend the NSLP had enjoyed steady overall growth until Fiscal Year 2012, which marked the first decline in total daily participation since 1990.

“It wasn't until USDA's new rules took effect that total student lunch participation began to free fall, despite increasing student enrollment in participating schools. More students have access to school meals but fewer are buying them - a troubling trend that increases the stigma on students who rely on school meals as their primary source of nutrition.

“In fact, a recent SNA survey found that 75% of school meal program operators cited decreases in student lunch participation as a “serious” or “moderate” challenge to their program. Increased food waste, sodium mandates, and other problems directly connected to implementation of the new standards were also cited as top challenges for the overwhelming majority of respondents.

“SNA has been proud to partner with the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) in pursuing avenues to increase paid meal participation, and we appreciate FRAC's support for reexamining the Paid Lunch Equity provision, which SNA has cited as exacerbating the now 15 percent decline in paid meal participation.

“Unfortunately, many of the school districts that have suffered the greatest participation and revenue declines under the new standards are ineligible for solutions such as the Community Eligibility Provision, equipment grants and other assistance. And despite the implementation of the Smart Snacks in School rule in July 2014, USDA's latest participation data indicates that school lunch participation continues to decline.

“SNA is simply seeking commonsense flexibility under the new standards to protect school meal programs and help all students adjust to and accept healthy changes in the cafeteria.”

About School Nutrition Association:
The School Nutrition Association (SNA) is a national, non-profit professional organization representing 55,000 school nutrition professionals across the country. Founded in 1946, SNA and its members are dedicated to making healthy school meals and nutrition education available to all students. For more information on school meals, visit


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