Maine schoolchildren from kindergarten through grade 12 have access to a variety of subsidized public nutrition programs, including school lunch, school breakfast, before- and after-school snacks, and community-based summer nutrition programs. Some nursery schools, day care providers and summer camps also take advantage of nutrition programs.
The most familiar program for children is the National School Lunch Program. In 2007, an estimated 30.5 million American children bought their lunch at school. Nearly 60 percent of them qualified for a free or reduced-price meal that, by federal law, met the dietary recommendations of the United States Department of Agriculture, which administers the program at the national level.
Children whose families have incomes at 130 percent of the federal poverty level or lower are eligible for free lunch. Children whose families earn between 130 percent and 180 percent of the federal poverty level pay a reduced price of no more than 40 cents. In 2007, 130 percent of the federal poverty level equaled $24,505 for a family of four, while 180 percent equaled $34,873.
Children whose families earn more than 180 percent of the level pay full price for school lunch, which in Maine ranges between $1 and $2.50, depending on the school and the grade level of the student.
In 2007, approximately 109,000 Maine students were served a total of 18,623,106 school lunches. Of these, 7,381,127 were free and 1,755,041 were reduced-price.
Every lunch served, even full-price lunches, generates a state reimbursement and a federal reimbursement. In 2007, the federal government paid $23,514,815.31 for Maine’ s lunch program, while the state contributed another $1,036,526.58. The program provides employment to about 2,044 Mainers.
The total federal budget for the school lunch program in 2007 was about $10.9 billion.