School Nutritionists: Participation in School Lunch Program ‘Abruptly Down’ in 49 States

The School Nutrition Association (SNA), which represents 55,000 school nutritionists nationwide, is pointing to data published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to draw awareness to the fact that “after 30 years of steady growth in the National School Lunch Program, student participation is abruptly down in 49 states.”

The nutritionists attribute the drop to new nutrition standards that were instituted by USDA in 2012.

Total national participation in the School Lunch Program peaked in 2010 and 2011 at 31.8 million, according to USDA. In 2012, it was 31.7 million. But in 2013, it dropped by 1 million participants, to 30.7 million. In 2014, it declined again to 30.4 million

Since its peak of 31.8 million in 2011, school lunch participation has dropped by 1.4 million, according to the USDA.

“More than one million fewer students choose school lunch each day, thwarting the goal of promoting healthier diets for all students,” the SNA stated, adding that “school lunch revenue is down and food waste is up.”