Lesson 2: School Lunch


Students will:

  • Evaluate their school lunch program.
  • Understand how to meet the criteria for the NSLP.
  • Think critically about the importance of maintaining a balanced diet.
  • Analyze different school lunches from around the world.

Skills: Analysis, brainstorming, and problem solving

Setting: Classroom

Time: 50 minutes


National School Lunch Program



(Using Key words: Students can create a glossary, in books or on wall in classroom (word wall). Students are encouraged to practice using vocab in written or verbal sentences – perhaps writing example sentences and displaying them).


In this lesson, students will learn about the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and serving recommendations. They will draw their own diagram representing their lunch and the percentage of vegetables, grains, fruit, protein and dairy. They will analyze the cost of their lunch, and compare it to the cost of school lunches from around the world.

Teacher Background:

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential childcare institutions. The program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Truman in 1946.

School districts and independent schools that choose to take part in the lunch program get cash subsidies and USDA foods for each meal they serve. These foods are called ?entitlement foods.? Schools can also get ?bonus? foods as they are available from surplus agricultural stock.

The cash reimbursement rate for schools that serve less than 60% free and reduced price lunches is $2.93 per free lunch. Schools with high percentages of low-income students get higher reimbursement rates. In 2000, the NSLP cost $6.1 billion. In 2012, the NSLP cost $11.6 billion and provided low-cost or free lunches to more than 31 million children each school day.

The MyPlate Diagram was created by the USDA to replace the food pyramid and help schools visualize the amount of vegetables, grains, fruit, protein and dairy required by the NSLP in each school lunch.



  • Garden Journals
  • Colored Pencils


  • MyPlate Diagram
  • School Lunches from around the world (share images with class)
  • Enterprise Project Worksheet (copies for groups of 3-5 students)


be prepared to have students work in groups for part of the activity.



Using the MyPlate diagram as a reference, ask students to name the five main food groups recommended daily by the USDA. [Fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy]. Write them on the board.

Ask the students for examples of items in each group and write their responses on the board.

Have students take out their Garden Journals and draw a plate with the amount of fruits, vegetables, protein, grains and dairy they think they should eat for lunch.

In groups, have the students share their drawings and compare what they think is the healthiest amount of each group.

Draw or place the MyPlate diagram on the board, and have the students compare their drawings to the USDA recommendations.


Have the students make a list of what they ate for lunch (that day or the previous day).

Ask students to write down each item in their lunch and all of the ingredients. If they do not know the ingredients, ask them to find out for next class.

Have the students circle all ingredients that are fruits or vegetables; put a star next to dark green, orange and red vegetables.

Look at the MyPlate example of vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, and dairy and have them compare to their list of what they ate for lunch.

Discuss the following questions:
What was missing on their plate that is on the MyPlate diagram?
Did they have the option to get that missing item at school lunch?
What would they change about their school lunch?

Enterprise Project In-Class

In class, separate students into groups of three to five students.

Announce that the students are in their enterprise groups. These groups will create basic business plans and present them to the class in Lesson #4.

Explain that the best business plan will be chosen by an anonymous vote, which will be used for the class? enterprise project.

Have groups of students decide on an enterprise project to plan. Ask students to refer to their previous assignment and review which enterprise projects they preferred. They can also choose to modify one of the projects they talked about from Lesson 1.

In groups, have students complete the Enterprise Project Worksheet. Ask students to write their names in the table, but leave the remaining table blank until next class.


Think about the following questions for next class:

Who will buy your product?
Where should you locate the business?
How can you attract customers?
What is your competition?
What advice do you need and who can provide it?

Encourage students to imagine the MyPlate diagram whenever they eat lunch to figure out whether they are eating a balanced meal.

Make sure to let them know that pizza isn?t a vegetable even if it has tomato sauce on it! (Anyways, tomatoes are actually fruits, not vegetables!)


Activity 1

Share the images of school lunches with the class, but cover the average price of the lunch.

Ask students to write down three observations they notice about each lunch.

After going through all the images, have students estimate a price for each lunch.

In groups, ask students to discuss their observations about the different lunches and compare the lunches to their own school?s lunch.

Put up the images of school lunches one-by-one, leaving the price uncovered and discuss what students noticed about that particular picture.

Explain that free lunches are paid for by the USDA. It costs the USDA $2.93 per meal.

Have students calculate the mean of all school lunch prices (add up all prices and divide by number of prices). How does this compare to the cost of school lunches in the U.S.?


Lesson 2: School Lunch

Lesson 2 Worksheet: Enterprise Project

Lesson 2 Overheads