Spending and Participation Trends

In fiscal year 2013, 70.2 percent of federal school lunch funds financed school lunches and snacks, while 22.3 percent financed school breakfasts, 7.3 percent financed optional commodities, and less than one percent financed school milk programs. The National School Lunch Program is the second largest nutritional assistance program in the nation after the Food Stamp program.

From 1977 to 2013, total federal expenditures on the National School Lunch Program increased from $6 billion to more than $11 billion annually.[1] Over the same period of time, participation in the meal programs increased by just over 5 million from 26.2 million to 30.7 million students. School lunch–and to a certain extent, breakfast–spending has primarily driven the expenditure increases due to a higher number of students enrolled in fully subsidized meal programs. In contrast, spending on milk has remained relatively flat.

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  1. Adjusted for inflation with 2013 as the base year. Spending on after-school snack is included in the school lunch category.