Child Nutrition Programs: Legislative History Highlights

Child Nutrition Programs Legislative History Highlights

The legislative history of child nutrition can be traced back to the creation of the National School Lunch Program in 1946.  These highlights are a good primer for anyone interested in child nutrition programs.


  • The National School Lunch Act (NSLA) was signed by President Harry Truman.
  • Program began as a grant aid to states.
  • Per meal reimbursement was approximately 9 cents.
  • Three meal options were included:
    • Type A – A complete lunch.
    • Type B -“Incomplete” lunch with smaller portions and fewer items.
    • Type C – 1/2 pint of milk.
  • The American School Food Service Association (ASFSA) was founded.


  • Within one year, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) had served a half billion meals to 7.1 million children


  • Type B meal dropped.
  • Per meal reimbursements dropped to 4 cents as the program participation outgrew dollars appropriated.


  • NSLA amended to change funding from grant aid to states to a guaranteed meal reimbursement.
  • Additional funding to schools with high percentage of low-income children.


  • Serving 3 billion meals to 19 million children. PL 69-642, the Child Nutrition Act (CNA) passed. This created a two-year pilot project School Breakfast Program, established a food service equipment assistance program, and increased funds for meals served to needy students.


  • Summer Program provides subsidies for meals in child care centers and provided funding for state administrative expenses (SAE).
  • PL 87-780 established National School Lunch Week.
  • PL 90-302 extended the program authority for the School Breakfast Program through FY 1971.


  • At the White House Conference on Hunger, President Richard Nixon said the time had come to end hunger in America. Established free and reduced-price lunches for needy children through sufficient funding in addition to regular reimbursement.


  • Amends to the NSLA and CNA established guidelines for providing free or reduced price meals, prohibited discrimination and overt identification of needy children.


  • NSLP serving 3.8 billion meals to 24.5 million children.
  • PL 92-32 extended the School Breakfast Program through FY 1973, provided that eligibility for free and reduced price meals was to be based on the same income guidelines as established in the NSLP, and allowed USDA to pay 100% of the operating costs of school breakfast programs in severe need areas.


  • NSLA amended to guarantee that funds be available for each meal served, and would be increased in accordance with the “food away from home index.”


  • Amendments to CNA (PL 94-105) made the School Breakfast Program permanent. Residential Child Care Institutions were allowed to participate as “schools” in the NSLP.


  • NSLP serving over 4 billion meals to 26 million children.


  • Establishment of the Nutrition Education and Training Program (NET).


  • President Ronald Reagan proposed a nutrition block grant to replace per meal reimbursement, eliminating the NET program and reducing reimbursement rates.


  • Child Nutrition amendments increased reimbursements and extended “Offer vs. Serve” to the School Breakfast Program.
  • Impact of reimbursement cuts seen in reversal of growth pattern.


  • Federal monitoring of the NSLP required more stringent meal counting and claim procedures. Child Nutrition Reauthorization included a requirement to improve the commodity program, and a provision for direct certification of students who receive food stamps or AFDC without further application.
  • PL 101-147 mandated agency outreach efforts to make local school boards aware of the School Breakfast Program; established grants to state education agencies for start-up costs for breakfast programs.


  • New monitoring requirements are implemented. Fiscal action required in case of non-compliance.


  • USDA published School Nutrition Dietary assessment showing that school lunches are too high in fat, even though they remain, overall, the most nutritious lunchtime option for students.


  • PL 103-448 made number of changes primarily emphasizing the need to improve the nutritional quality of school meals. Required school lunches to conform to the Dietary Guidelines by 1996.
  • USDA established Team Nutrition and launched the Healthy School Meals Initiative to support improvements in school lunch and increased nutrition education for children.


  • Proposals in Congress to block grant school nutrition programs generated extensive debate. >Proposal is not enacted.
  • In the 50th year of operation 4,253,390,200 lunches were served to 39,543,840 children.


  • Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 or “welfare reform” eliminated start up funds for the School Breakfast Program and Summer Food Service Program.
  • May 29, President Clinton signs PL 104-193, the Personal Responsibility Reconciliation Act: No block grants were included. The Act rounded down Section 4 reimbursement rates to the nearest whole cent.


  • PL 105-136, the William F. Goodling Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 1998 was enacted. Some of the key features were:
    • The After School Snack Program was expanded to allow snacks to be served through the NSLP to children through 18 years of age. “At risk” areas are reimbursed at free rates.
    • Meals for Achievement School Breakfast Research Pilot implemented, but funding is postponed until FY2000.
    • “Seamless Programs” became required to use a single claim form that incorporated sections or claims for all meals served.


  • $7 million of the $13 million requested was allotted to the School Breakfast Research Pilot in the FY 2000 budget with the balance appropriated in FY 2001.