2023-24 Food and Nutrition Services Newsletter

Food and Nutrition Services logo with a black circle on a field background with an apple and carrot

What does the research say about school meals? 

USDA's National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs make up the second-largest food assistance program in the United States, benefiting over 30 million children daily. Since their establishment in 1946, research has consistently shown the positive impact of participation in these programs on student health and academic outcomes.

A comprehensive 15-year study comparing the nutritional quality of meals consumed in the United States revealed that school meals outperformed other sources, including grocery stores, restaurants, and worksites.1 The study analyzed data from almost 21,000 children and 40,000 adults between 2003 and 2018, making school meals the healthiest meals Americans consume. Further, school meals demonstrated consistent improvements in school meal quality across diverse sociodemographic groups.1 In contrast, diet quality from other sources either maintained or widened disparities between socioeconomic groups, highlighting the importance of school meals for improving the diet quality of individuals from low-income families.1

School meals address food insecurity and enhance overall diet quality, playing a crucial role in improving academic success. Notably, research emphasizes the significant impact of school breakfast participation, which has been linked to improved attendance, behavior, academic performance, and reduced tardiness.2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Consuming breakfast at school enhances concentration, alertness, comprehension, memory, and learning, leading to better performance on standardized tests.7, 8, 9, 10

Despite the proven benefits, participation rates in school breakfast programs remain low, with less than half of students who have school lunch also participating in school breakfast. This discrepancy can be attributed to various barriers, including rushed morning schedules, transportation issues, limited time and space for eating, financial constraints, and the presence of stigma. These challenges contribute to students missing or opting out of breakfast.12

Student with breakfast

School meal stigma is particularly evident in schools with a smaller percentage of free meal-eligible students, such as many in the Northshore area.11 Studies indicate that school meal stigma tends to increase as students age, especially among middle and high school students.11 It is crucial to prioritize the importance of school meal programs, implement strategies to address barriers, and foster a supportive environment to maximize their potential in promoting student health, academic success, and long-term well-being.

 1Liu J, Micha R, Li Y, Mozaffarian D. r,ends in food Sources and Diet Quality Among US Children and Adults, 2003·2018. JAMA Netw Open. 2021,4(4):e215262. 
2Augustine.rhottungal R, et. al. Ending childhood hunger: A social impact analysis. White Paper, Deloitte and the No Kid Hungry Center for Best Practices, 2013.
3Hoyland A, Dye L, Lawton CL. A systematic review of the effect of breakfast on the cognitive performance of children and adolescents. Nut, Res Rev. 2009;22(2):220·43.
4Basch, C. E. (2011). Breakfast and the Achievement Gap Among Urban Minority Youth. Journal of Schoof Health, 81 (10), 635-640.
5Murphy, J. M., Pagano, M., Nachmani,J., Sperling, P., Kane, S., & Kleinman, R. (1998). rhe Relationship of School Breakfast to Psychosocial and Academic Functioning: Cross,sectional and longitudinal observations in an inner-city sample. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 152,899.907
6Powell, C. A., Walker, S. P., Chang, S. M., & Grantham-McGregor, S. M. (1998). Nutrition and education: a randomized trial of the effects of breakfast in rural primary school children. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 68, 873-9.
7Grantham-McGregor, S., Chang, S., & Walker, S. (1998). Evaluation of School Feeding Programs: Some Jamaican Examples. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67(4) 78551895.
8Brown, J. L., Beardslee, W. H., & Prothrow-Stith, D. (2008). Impact of School Breakfast on Children's Health and Leaming. Sodexo Foundation.
9Morris, C. r., Courtney, A., Bryant, C. A., & McDermott, R. J. (2010). Grab 'N' Go Breakfast at School: Observation from a Pilot Program. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 42(3), 208-209.
10Ida Cossitt-Glesner, Blake Angelo, and Marc Jacobson. The Value of Universal School Meals for Colorado's K12 Students and Schools. Colorado Food Systems Advisory Council Issue Brief. TBD 2021.
11Mirtcheva OM, Powell lM. Participation in the national school lunch program: importance of school-level and neighborhood contextual factors. J Sch Health. 2009 Oct;79(10):485-94.
12Bailey-Davis L, Virus A, McCoy TA, Wojtanowski A, Vander Veur SS, Foster GD. Middle school student and parent perceptions of government-sponsored free school breakfast and consumption: a qualitative inquiry in an urban setting. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 Feb;113(2):251-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.09.017.  


Did you know? 

In 2022–23, FNS served 304,408 breakfasts and 1,243,329 lunches!


2023-24 Applications for Free & Reduced-Priced Meals

It is important that if you believe your family qualifies for free or reduced-priced meals, you fill out an application as soon as possible. Families must re-qualify for benefits each year. 

This means that if you qualified by filling out an application in the 2022-23 school year, you must renew your application by the end of September 2023. Families may be responsible for charges incurred starting in October, if they have not re-qualified for benefits. 

In addition to meals, those who qualify can also receive discounted or free school services including athletic fees, field trip fees, ASB fees, college application fees, and more!

Applications are available beginning in August to apply for 2023-24 school year benefits. The online application is the fastest and easiest way to get approved and is available in 9 languages. Go to www.nsd.org/mealapplication.

Paper applications in additional languages can be found and printed from: www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/translated-applications. Please note: Paper applications will be mailed home by request only. To have an application mailed to you, call the Food & Nutrition Services office at 425-408-7657 or email dmoran@nsd.org.

Complete only one application per household.

LINQ Connect

Paying for Meals 

Northshore’s online system for managing students’ meal account information, balances, recurring payments, notifications, and more are now available to families using LINQ Connect. Families’ login information has transitioned from Titan to LINQ, so families will be able to login using the same credentials as they did with Titan. Login or register now to manage your students’ account!



Feed it Forward

Despite the high cost of living in Washington, the qualification for meal benefits is determined solely at the federal level, without considering regional factors. Families in the Northshore community, like those in other states and regions, must meet the income thresholds of less than $39,000 per year for free meals and less than $55,000 per year for reduced-price meals, regardless of their state, region, or city.

Feed It Forward graphic of a phone with hands

Northshore provides meals to all students in need, regardless of their meal account standing. Consider donating to support community students who struggle to afford regular meals. Linq Connect allows for convenient donations when depositing money on your own student's meal account or as a separate donation. Donations can also be made at schools or administrative offices throughout the school year.

Please be aware that Linq charges a convenience fee for online transactions, and online donations require an established Linq account. For donation-related inquiries, please call 425-408-7657.




Free & Reduced-Price Meal Qualifications FAQ

For additional information about free and reduced-price meals, or fee waivers, please contact the Food & Nutrition Services Department at 425-408-7657 or dmoran@nsd.org.


If my student qualifies for free or reduced-price meals, how are additional fees are waived?

Parental permission is required to share the student's eligibility information, and the fee waiver form must be filled out. Fee waivers may include athletic fees, field or trip fees, ASB fees, college application and testing fees. For more information about fee waivers, please contact the FNS department.


Does my student’s teacher or other school staff know if they qualify for free or reduced-price meals?

No. Student eligibility information is confidential and restricted to authorized personnel only, such as Food & Nutrition Services and approved district-level staff. Even in select programs like Hi-Cap, school-level staff like teachers, office staff, and principals do not have access to this information.


If my student qualifies for free or reduced-price meals, can they bring lunch from home and get milk for free?

No. Unfortunately, USDA regulations only allow a complete meal to be served free of charge to those who qualify. A complete meal includes three out of five components (milk, fruit, vegetable, grains, and meat/meat alternates), with one of the three selected being half a cup of fruit or vegetable. If a student brings an entrée from home, they can choose fruit, vegetable, and milk to meet the complete meal requirements and receive it for free.


How do I know if my student qualifies for free or reduced-price meals?

You will be notified by email from noreply@linqconnect.com - please make sure that you include an accurate email and physical address with your application to ensure you receive timely notification of the application status. If you do not have an email, a letter will be mailed to your home address.


What does a free meal include? Is it a different meal than what students paying full price get?

All students, regardless of their eligibility status (free, reduced, or paid), have access to the same menu options daily. The meals provided must meet the USDA's requirements, meaning all students, regardless of eligibility, must follow the same guidelines. A complete meal includes three out of the five components offered daily (milk, fruit, vegetable, grains, and meat/meat alternates). One of the selected components must be half a cup of fruit or vegetable.

Photo of Northshore's vegan chickenless shawarma wrap


We send meals from home, WHY should we apply for meal benefits?  

Applying for meal benefits is recommended, regardless of whether your student intends to eat school meals.  Qualifying for free or reduced-price meals not only provides meal options for your student when needed, but also allows fee waivers for your student. Some schools receive extra funding and resources based on the number of qualified students, potentially resulting in increased staffing and expansion of a universal free meal program to the entire school.


Did you know?

Our secondary schools now offer 6-7 vegetarian options daily, with 2-4 of those being vegan options.


How do School Meals Compare?

The purpose of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) is to provide all students with affordable and nutritious meals during the school day. Administered by the USDA, these programs strive to enhance children's health, well-being, and academic performance.

To promote a balanced and nutritious diet, the NSLP and SBP adhere to guidelines that include essential nutrients while limiting unhealthy components. School meals must meet criteria for whole grains, protein, dairy, and vegetable sub-groups, as well as strict nutrient guidelines for calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium. These guidelines ensure that students receive a variety of nutrients necessary for their growth, development, and overall well-being, making school meals the healthiest option for many Americans.

Furthermore, the USDA provides funding for a portion of each meal, allowing school districts to offer affordable meals, even for students who pay the full price.

So how do school meals compare to available fast-food options?

NSD School Lunch Fast Food Options
27% fewer calories More calories
30% less fat More fat
29% less saturated fat More saturated fat
23% less sodium More sodium
46% less sugar More sugar
254% more fiber Less fiber
More vitamins Less vitamins
More minerals Less minerals
More food Less food
Less expensive 261% more expensive
$4.00 $10.45



Did you know?

Well-known retail manufacturers that work with schools create specially formulated versions of retail favorites like breakfast cereals, for school meal programs. These products usually have more whole grains, less sugar and less sodium than their retail versions.