National School Lunch Program

In Rhode Island, the National School Lunch Program provides nutritious, low-cost or free lunches to over 72,000 children daily. Schools that take part in the lunch program get cash subsidies and donated foods from USDA.

Participating program Sponsors include all public schools, state schools and charter schools, and some private schools, special needs citizen centers, and residential child care institutions.

State law mandates that all public schools provide lunch through the National School Lunch Program.

Children from families with income:

  • Up to 130% of poverty level are eligible for free meals.
  • Between 130 to 185% of poverty level are eligible for reduced-price meals ($.40 or less).
  • Over 185% of poverty pay a price determined by the school or institution for their subsidized meal.

69% of the lunches served in Rhode Island are served free or at the reduced price.

For additional program information contact:

Jennifer Goodwin, MS, RD


September's upcoming webinars: Meal Benefit Eligibility Determinations and Professional Standards

USDA's Team Nutrition is an initiative of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to support the Child Nutrition Programs through training and technical assistance for foodservice, nutrition education for children and their caregivers, and school and community support for healthy eating and physical activity.

RIDE Hosted Webinars


August 2023 Training Slides:

Tuesday, August 15th:

Wednesday, August 16th:

Wednesday, August 23rd:

Thursday, August 24th:

Welcome to the National School Lunch Program Documents, Resources and Helpful Links. This section includes RIDE issued documents, and additional resources, documents and links from a variety of sources related to this USDA Program.

 Meal Benefit and Eligibility Information

With the transition back to traditional school meals operations for the 2022-2023 school year, this Toolkit has been developed to provide strategies to improve outreach and communication to families that may qualify for school meal benefits: School Meals Outreach Toolkit



Additional Meal Benefit Documents: English and Spanish

  • Sharing Information with Medicaid/CHIP
  • Sharing Information with Other Programs
  • We Must Check Your Application
  • Notice to Households of Approval/Denial of Benefits
  • Notice of Direct Certification

USDA Eligibility Manual for School Meals

USDA Reimbursement Rates 2022-2023

Professional Development Resources

USDA Team Nutrition Resource Library

Alliance for a Healthier Generation website

New England Dairy & Food Council

Supports and partners with RI schools to ensure that students have access to the healthy foods and physical activity they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond. Check out: 

Farm Fresh RI 

The new Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) makes it easier for all children in low-income communities have access to healthy meals at school.  CEP allows schools in high poverty areas to offer nutritious meals through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs to all students at no change while eliminating school meal applications. Contact Jennifer Goodwin for additional information on CEP in RI. 

The CEP Fact Sheet provides an overview of the Community Eligibility Program.

View a recorded webinar on CEP.

Here is the of listing of:

For additional information, check the USDA CEP website and the Food Research and Action Center website.

CEP Reimbursement Estimator (calculator tool) allows schools that are considering the Community Eligibility Provision to calculate their estimated federal reimbursement they will receive.  This will help assess the financial viability of their school meal program under CEP.

Districts interested in participating in the CEP in 2021-2022 should complete the CEP SFA Participation Form, and the CEP Eligibility Worksheet.

Districts/schools that have elected to participate in CEP for at least one site must notify households of children attending the CEP school(s) of CEP participation in the 2021-2022 school year.  LEAs may use this Sample Household Letter to serve as the required notification.

E-Rate guidance has been issued by both USDA and the Federal Communications Commission.  It provides information on newly adopted rules for the E-rate program, including how school districts with CEP schools should calculate their discount rates beginning in School Year 2015 2016.

US Department of Education has issued guidance on Title 1 Part A. and CEP.

Annual Verification Process


Verification in a required part of school meal program administration.  

  • Verification must be completed annually by November 15th..
  • The Verification Summary Report (FNS 742) is due to RIDE by December 15th. 

Regulations prohibit the oversampling of meal benefit applications for Verification.  If your meal benefit eligibility process is decentralized (each school handles its own eligibility determination), here are specific instructions for the Consolidation of the Verification process and results. 

Below are links to resources to assist with the Verification process.

Please contact Jennifer Goodwin at or 401-222-4269 if you have any questions about this important aspect of school meal program administration.

The Reimbursement and Claims section provides information on USDA reimbursement rates, and RIDE's CNP Connect secure claims processing and management system.

USDA Reimbursement Rates

USDA reimbursement rates are updated on a yearly basis.

USDA Reimbursement Rates 2023-2024:

USDA Donated Foods Program (Commodities)

The USDA's Schools/Child Nutrition Programs support American agricultural producers by providing cash reimbursements for meals served in schools, but also by providing nutritious, USDA-purchased food to the following nutrition programs:

  • National School Lunch Program;
  • Child and Adult Care Food Program; and the
  • Summer Food Service Program

For additional information:


CNP Connect Claims & Management System

CNP Connect includes a secure section for processing meal claims. For additional information on filing meal claims, go to the CNPConnect site.

Procurement in the Child Nutrition Programs

Procurement is defined as a multistep process for obtaining goods and services at the lowest possible price. The steps in this process include planning, writing specifications, announcing/advertising the procurement, awarding a contract, and managing the contract. Procurement standards for the federally funded child nutrition programs (CNPs) are located in 2 CFR, sections 200.318–200.326 and 7 CFR, parts 210, 225, 226, and 250 (as applicable).

USDA Procurement Guidance


RIDE Procurement Guidance & Training


RIDE Pre-Approved Equipment List for the School Nutrition Programs

Based on USDA guidance and Federal regulation, RIDE has required SFAs purchasing equipment that will be used to support the operations of the School Nutrition Programs (SNPs) and which will be funded in whole or in part by funds from the non-profit school foodservice account to obtain approval from RIDE prior to making any such purchases. 

Recognizing the administrative burden created by requiring pre-approval for routine equipment purchases in the SNPs, the USDA has granted State Agencies with an approved equipment list permission to allow SFAs to purchase approved items, following competitive Federal, State, or local procurement procedures, as applicable, without submitting a request to the State Agency for approval.

The following procedure outlines the allowable use of RIDE’s pre-approved equipment list to streamline the approval process for equipment purchases to support the School Nutrition Programs.



Food Service Management Company (FSMC) Procurement & Monitoring

School Food Authorities (SFAs) that enter into a contract for the management of their food service programs must conduct performance management of the Food Service Management Company (FSMC) contract through periodic on-site monitoring of the contractual requirements, as per 7 CFR 210.16(a)(3). RIDE has broken down the contractual monitoring requirements into six (6) individual sections with additional instructions on how to measure compliance for each question; these monitoring forms and supporting training videos can be found below, along with a video designed to help SFAs determine which type of services (FSMC or vended meals) that they may want to solicit for. 

Note: the "FSMC Monitoring Form - Section 6" is specific to the FSMC procurement process and should be completed and submitted to RIDE as part of the formal FSMC procurement process prior to fully executing an agreement with the selected vendor. 


Here you will find information regarding the USDA meal pattern requirements:

The meal pattern requirements for infants and preschoolers who participate in the School Meal Programs has changed. The new requirements are in effect beginning October 1, 2017. However, USDA has issued a memo regarding flexibility when the preschoolers are co-mingled with the school age children during meal time. See below:

SP 37-2017: Flexibility for Co-Mingled Preschool Meals: Questions and Answers

This memorandum provides guidance on meals served to preschoolers when they are in the same service area at the same time as grade K-5 students, and it includes Questions and Answers. 

Additional Information about changes to the Child and Adult care food program can be found here.

Guidance on reducing food waste with the use of "Share tables" and food donations.

School Waste Recycling & Refuse Disposal

The RI School Recycling Club estimates that over 27,777 pounds of food get wasted on a regular school day! RI lawmakers, advocates, and state agencies are working to help schools implement practices that will result in less waste and will ensure that any waste that is generated is appropriately recovered, shared, donated, and/or composted. In fact, RI General Law 16-111 sets specific standards for educational entities in RI, which include: 

  • Every three (3) years, every educational entity shall coordinate and cooperate with the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC) for the  purpose of conducting school waste audits
  • All educational entities procuring a vendor to provide food services must collect assurances from prospective vendors that they are in compliance with all laws relative to recycling and composting, provided that food was is separated for diversion with the educational entity
  • All educational entities procuring a vendor to provide food services must encourage within their procurement processes:
    • use of a vendor that purchases ten percent (10%) of the required food service product from a RI-based food service company
    • use of vendors who recycle organic-waste materials at an authorized composting facility, an anaerobic digestion facility, or by another authorized recycling method
  • All educational entities procuring a vendor to provide food services must require the selected vendor to donate any unserved nonperishable or unspoiled food to local food banks or the Rhode Island Food Bank in accordance with the recommendations from the Rhode Island Department of Health "The Road to End Hunger" initiative

In addition to these laws related to school waste recycling and refuse disposal, RI General Law 23-18.9-17 requires the following as of January 1, 2023: 

  • Each educational entity shall ensure that the organic-waste materials that are generated by the educational entity are recycled at an authorized composting facility or anaerobic digestion facility or by another authorized recycling method if: 
    • The educational entity generates not less than thirty (30) tons per year of organic-waste material; and
    • The educational entity is located not more than fifteen (15) miles from an authorized composting facility or anaerobic digestion facility with available capacity to accept such material

This means that most RI schools should be separating and diverting food waste but many don't know where to start. The RI Department of Education is working with partner agencies to develop resources to support schools in their sustainability efforts. We'll be adding resources to this page as they become available, but in the meantime here are some steps that you can take now: 

  • Estimate your school's food waste with the RI Schools Food Waste Estimator from the RI Recycling Club
  • Download the Food Smart Toolkit from the RI Recycling Club to start the conversation about reducing food waste in your school community 
  • Work with your food service provider to implement a share table and/or food donation program in your school
  • Build sorting stations and food waste diversion into your school meals programs budget. Use the Food Smart Schools Budget Estimate worksheet as a starting point and, remember: costs such as these, which are considered to be reasonable and necessary for the operation of your school food service program are allowable uses of your Federal reimbursements, including existing non-profit school lunch account balances and current operating budgets.

Healthy Snacks & Beverages

USDA recently published practical, science-based nutrition standards for snack foods and beverages sold to children at school during the school day.  As of July 1, 2014, these standards allow schools to offer healthier snack foods to children, while limiting less nutritious foods.

Smart Snacks in Schools

The new USDA Smart Snacks nutrition standards support better health for students and echoes the good work already taking place in schools in RI. Smart Snacks are also know as competitive foods because they "compete" with the nutritious school meals.

Smart Snack standards apply when competitive food & beverage items are:

  1. Sold to students
  2. On the school campus (vending machines, school stores, a la carte lines, snack bars and sold through fund raisers)
  3. During the school day (midnight before, to 1 hour after the end of the official school day)

Must meet the nutrition standards for competitive foods. In other words, children will be able to buy only foods that their parents would find generally acceptable.

More guidance is found on the USDA Smart Snacks webpage.

USDA is now closely aligned with the:

For guidance on aligning with both Federal Smart Snacks Nutrient Standards and RI State Nutrition Standards, this flyer from the RI Healthy Schools Coalition and RIDE combines both standards in a concise reference sheet.  

Fund Raising in Schools

For alternate, healthy fundraising ideas, check out Healthy School Fundraising - Promoting a Healthy School Environment.

Wellness and the National School Lunch Program

Local wellness policies are an important tool for parents, schools and Sponsor in promoting student wellness, preventing and reducing childhood obesity, and providing assurance that school meal nutrition guidelines meet the minimum federal school meal standards.  

USDA requires that each local educational agency that participates in the National School Lunch Program or other federal Child Nutrition Programs establishes a local school wellness policy for all schools under its jurisdiction.  

Check out USDA Team Nutrition's School Nutrition Environment & Wellness Resources  

RIDE works closely with the RI Healthy School Coalition to provide technical assistance, resources, and guidance on the development and implementation of local wellness policies.  Resources include: 

In accordance with current USDA requirements, below is the posting of administrative review findings by year for each district:

This section provides local and national data on the National School Lunch Program, and information about fiscal aspects of the Program.

USDA Donated Food Entitlement

The USDA's Schools/Child Nutrition Programs support American agricultural producers by providing cash reimbursements for meals served in schools, but also by providing nutritious, USDA-purchased food to the following nutrition programs:

  • National School Lunch Program
  • Child and Adult Care Food Program
  • Summer Food Service Program

For additional information:

Breakfast Participation

The Annual RI Kids Count's Fact Book includes analysis of breakfast participation in the USDA School Breakfast Program.

USDA Program Finance and Participation Data

FNS Program Data