National School Lunch Act
The Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (79 P.L. 396, 60 Stat. 230) is a United States federal law that created the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to provide low-cost or free school lunch meals to qualified students through subsidies to schools. The program was established as a way to prop up food prices by absorbing farm surpluses, while at the same time providing food to school age children. It was named after Richard Russell, Jr., and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman in 1946.
The majority of the support provided to schools participating in the program comes in the form of a cash reimbursement for each meal served. Schools are also entitled to receive commodity foods and additional commodities as they are available from surplus agricultural stocks. The National School Lunch Program serves 30.5 million children each day at a cost of $8.7 billion for fiscal year 2007. Most participants are also eligible for food during the summer through the Summer Food Service Program.
School feeding in the United States underwent the same evolution as in Europe, beginning with sporadic food services undertaken by private societies and associations interested in child welfare and education. The Children's Aid Society of New York initiated a program in 1853, serving meals to students attending the vocational school.
In 1894, the Starr Center Association in Philadelphia began serving penny lunches in one school, later expanding the service to another. Soon a lunch committee was established within the Home and School League, and lunches were extended to include nine schools in the city.
In 1909, Dr. Cheesman A. Herrick, who was principal of the William Penn High School for Girls was credited with accomplishing the transfer of responsibilities for operation and support of the lunch program from charitable organizations to the Philadelphia School Board. He requested that a system be established to assure that the lunches served would be based upon sound principles of nutrition and required that the program be under the direction of a home economics graduate. The Board granted his request on an experimental basis and on the condition that the program would be self-supporting. The experiment proved successful, and the following year lunch services were extended to the Southern Manual Training School and later to three additional units.
In the spring of 1912, the School Board established a Department of High School Lunches and directed that the food services be inaugurated in all the high schools of the city. During all this time the Home and School League had continued operating the feeding program in the nine elementary schools, and continued to do so until May 1915, when it reported to the Board that the need for a lunch system had been clearly demonstrated and that it could not be successfully operated by an organization outside the school system. As a result, the School Board placed the operation of both high school and elementary lunch programs under the supervision of the Department of High School Lunches and authorized the extension of the program to other elementary schools.
In the September of 1908, the Women's Educational and Industrial Union in Boston begun to supply hot lunches to high schools which were under the supervision of the Boston School Committee.A central kitchen system was used and lunches were transported to the participating schools.
In January 1910, an experimental program for elementary schools took the form of a mid-morning lunch prepared by the class in Home Economics three days each week. On two days of each week sandwiches and milk were served. The children ate their meals at their desks, there being no lunchroom in the building. Before the end of the school year (1909–1910) five additional schools were benefiting from the program, and a total of 2,000 pupils were being served each day, according to a report submitted by Ellen H. Richards in the "Journal of Home Economics" for December 1910.
Early Federal Aid
As the scope of the meal supply expanded, local governments and school district boards could not provide the funds necessary to carry the increasing load. Supplementary contributions by charitable organizations and individuals did not suffice. Aid from Federal sources became inevitable. The earliest Federal aid came from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation in 1932 and 1933 when it granted loans to several towns in southwestern Missouri to cover the cost of labor employed in preparing and serving school lunches. Such Federal assistance was expanded to other areas in 1933 and 1934 under the operations of the Civil Works Administration and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, reaching into 39 States and covering the employment of 7,442 women.
Commodity Donation Program
The depression of the 1930s brought on widespread unemployment. Much of the production of the farm went begging for a market, surpluses of farm products continued to mount, prices of farm products declined to a point where farm income provided only a meager subsistence.Millions of school children were unable to pay for their school lunches, and with but limited family resources to provide meals at home, the danger of malnutrition among children became a national concern.
Public Law 320 passed by the 74th Congress and approved August 24, 1936, made available to the Secretary of Agriculture an amount of money equal to 30 percent of the gross receipts from duties collected under the customs laws during each calendar year.
Needy families and school lunch programs became constructive outlets for the commodities purchased by the USDA under the terms of such legislation. Many needy school children could not afford to pay for lunches and were sorely in need of supplementary foods from a nutritional standpoint. Thus they would be using foods at school which would not otherwise be purchased in the market place and farmers would be helped by obtaining an outlet for their products at a reasonable price. The purchase and distribution program was assigned in 1935 to the Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation which had been established in 1933 as the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation to distribute surplus pork, dairy products, and wheat to the needy. In March 1937, there were 3,839 schools receiving commodities for lunch programs serving 342,031 children daily. Two years later, the number of schools participating had grown to 14,075 and the number of children had risen to 892,259. From 1939 to 1942，the number of schools participating increased by 78,841, and the number of pupils participating increased by 5,272,540.
The distribution of commodities was made possible through the teamwork of Federal, State and local governmental units. Vast quantities of foods were distributed to needy families and charitable institutions, in addition to those distributed to schools. It was essential, therefore, to have an effective administrative organization at each level of government.
At first, commodities were allotted to schools based upon the number of undernourished and underprivileged children participating in the program. However, this was soon changed to an allotment based on the total number of children participating in the program.The maximum quantity of any food that any school could receive was based upon a maximum quantity per child per month established by USDA. This method of allocation persists to this day, with the exception that for some items the allocation is unlimited if the supply is adequate.
Where the food comes from
Any school is eligible to receive NSLP for its students; meals come from a number of different sources, they can come from on-site production, vended meal from a NSLP caterer or in most schools provided by the local school board centralized kitchen.
This is usually regulated by each state's Department of Education's nutrition services. Regardless of who provides the food (on-site production, catered-vended, or school board kitchen), the raw materials come from USDA as donated commodities; in the case of vended meals, the caterer must use and credit the school for the commodities received.
Driven to increase the quality of food in the NSLP, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) undertook an ambitious agenda a few years ago to provide schools with a consistent supply of safe, low-fat ground beef.
Beginning in 2002, AMS established a statistically based vendor certification and supply chain quality management program for the purchase of ground beef and pork for NSLP under the Technical Requirements Schedule (GB‑2006, the current version). The program has enjoyed considerable success in reducing pathogen levels and controlling fat content in lean beef and pork that is provided to school children.
Under the program, Meat Grading and Certification (MGC) Branch agents enforce continuous auditing and in-plant monitoring as long as the contractor is in the program. Microbial and fat SPC charts and graphs for microbial levels and fat content are monitored for process assessment purposes on a daily basis.
Nutrition, Behavior,and Learning
Nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program and National School Breakfast program were updated in 2012.  This update in nutritional standards was funded through a federal statute signed into law by President Barack Obama. The bill called the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 funds free lunch programs in public schools for the next five years.  The new guidelines require students to choose either a serving of fruit or vegetables every meal. Also, the portions must now be larger. 
Along with larger portions of fruits and vegetables, the National School Lunch Program now enforces a variety of other nutritional requirements. Food products and ingredients used to prepare school meals must contain zero grams of added trans fat per serving (less than 0.5 grams per serving as defined by FDA). Furthermore, a meal can provide no more than 30 percent of calories from fat and less than 10 percent from saturated fat.
In late 2009, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies released School Meals: Building Blocks For Healthy Children. This report reviews and provides recommendations to update the nutrition standard and the meal requirements for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. School Meals also sets standards for menu planning that focus on food groups, calories, saturated fat, and sodium and that incorporate Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Dietary Reference Intakes.
Nutrition plays a critical role in cognitive development and academic performance for children, because undernourished children are more likely to be less energetic and less able to concentrate. The day-to-day observation of teachers and administrators of the relationship between inadequate nutrition and behavior and ability to learn is substantiated by scientific studies.Twenty Cape Town, South Africa, children were studied for 11 years, beginning in 1955.-The study was based on the hypothesis "that the ill effects of under-nutrition are determined by (1) Its occurrence during the period of maximum growth and (2) the duration of under-nutrition relative to the total per1,od of growth. . . Evidence is cumulative and impressive that severe under-nutrition during the first 2 years of life, when brain growth is most active, results in a permanent reduction of brain size and restricted intellectual development.”  Some basic micronutrients are necessary for children to maintain a good status of learning, such as iron and vitamin B-12. Iron deficiency puts a child at risk of cognitive delay and lower math scores.
In December 2009, a report was released that showed that fast food restaurants were far more rigorous in checking for bacteria and dangerous pathogens in beef and chicken than the school lunch program. "We simply are not giving our kids in schools the same level of quality and safety as you get when you go to many fast-food restaurants", said J. Glenn Morris, director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida. "We are not using those same standards."
In November 2011, an agriculture appropriations bill passed by Congress garnered controversy for blocking a proposed change by the Obama administration to school lunch regulations, whereby 1/8 of a cup of tomato paste would no longer have been considered as having the nutritional equivalent of 1/2 a cup of vegetables, but instead only as having the nutritional equivalent of 1/8 of a cup of vegetables (i.e., schools can only credit a volume of vegetables as equivalent to its actual size). Critics of this move by Congress claim that pressure was placed upon officials voting on the bill by lobbyists representing pizza manufacturers and cheese producers, as it was seen to threaten the ability of schools to serve pizza and credit it with the same level of nutritional value as they heretofore had. Many critics have sardonically summarized the situation as "Pizza is now a vegetable" or "Congress decides pizza is a vegetable". However, others have pointed out that 1/8 of a cup of tomato paste stacks up remarkably well against a 1/2 cup of vegetables nutritionally, albeit with an excessive amount of sodium that could be argued to reduce its nutritional value.
In 1967-68, the national enrollment in public and private schools was approximately 50.7 million, according to a survey of School Food Services in March 1968. About 36.8 million children, or 73 percent, were enrolled in schools participating in the National School Lunch Program with an actual average participation in the program of 18.9 million children, or about 37 percent of the national enrollment.
Reasons for non-participation in the program were numerous, but in low-income areas and large urban centers low participation was particularly evident. Many of the school buildings in these areas, as well as the small schools in rural areas, were built many years ago when there were no plans for operating a school lunch program, and the buildings did not lend themselves to remodeling for that purpose -neither were local funds available for it. Many of the elementary school buildings in urban centers were built with the idea that the children could and should go home for lunch ("neighborhood schools") and lunchroom facilities were not available. Many of these condition hold true today.
Some school authorities still cling to the idea that a school lunch program must be self-supporting, and others feel that the school has no responsibility in this area. According to a junior high school principal, "We think this is the responsibility of parents and child. We do not check them to see if a student eats. As a whole, we are doing it as a service rather than a need."
The net result is that the children in the neediest areas must go without an adequate noonday meal at school, or perhaps an inadequate meal at home, or none at all. Many high school students prefer to bring a bag lunch from home or eat snacks and beverages at a nearby stand or from a vending machine in the school. In some instances the portions served to high school students are not adjusted to meet their needs and they seek other sources of service where their tastes and appetites can be satisfied.
The predominating reason, however, appears to be inadequate funding at Federal, State and local levels with the end result that the children who cannot afford to pay are the losers.
National School Lunch Week
National School Lunch Week takes place on the second Sunday in October.
- Child and Adult Care Food Program
- Child Nutrition Act of 1966
- Free school meal
- Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010
- Nutrition for Learning (in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada)
- Oslo breakfast
- Tino De Angelis - intentionally sold spoiled meat to the National School Lunch Program
- Copy of the School Lunch Act As Enacted in 1946, Federal Education Policy History website
- The National School Lunch Program Background and Development
- Gordon W. Gunderson，Early Programs by States，National School Lunch Program，USDA，http://www.fns.usda.gov/nslp/history_2#earlyprograms
- Emma Smedley, The School Lunch: Its Organization and Management in Philadelphia, Smedley, 1920.
- Gordon W. Gunderson，Early Programs by States，National School Lunch Program，USDA，http://www.fns.usda.gov/nslp/history_2#12
- Gordon W. Gunderson，Early Federal Aid，National School Lunch Program，USDA，http://www.fns.usda.gov/nslp/history_4
- Delivering the "Stats" for National School Lunch Quality and Safety Jeff Cawley
- National Academy of Sciences. 2009. School Meals: Building Blocks For Healthy Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Available at:http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12751.
- J.McCary, Improving Access to School-Based Nutrition Services for Children with Special Health Care Needs, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 106(9):1333-1336.2006
- Undernutrition During Infancy, and Subsequent Brain Growth and Intellectual Development from Malnutrition, Learning and Behavior. Edited by Nevin S. Scrimshaw and John E. Gordon, M.I.T. Pres, Cambridge, Mass., 1968, pp. 279-287.
- S.K.Malone, Improving the quality of students’ dietary intake in the school setting, The Journal of School Nursing, 21(2):70-76.2005
- Eisler, Peter; Morrison, Blake; DeBarros, Anthony (2009-12-09). "Fast-food standards for meat top those for school lunches". USA Today. Retrieved 2009-12-10.
- Public Concern, Action and Status,http://www.fns.usda.gov/nslp/history_7
- Jean Fairfax, Chairman. Committee on School Lunch Participation, Their Daily Bread, Atlanta, Ga., McNelley-Rudd Printing Service, Inc., p. 17.
- "36 USC § 132 - National School Lunch Week | Title 36 - Patriotic and National Observances, Ceremonies, and Organizations | U.S. Code | LII / Legal Information Institute". .law.cornell.edu. Retrieved 2013-12-12.
- History of the National School Lunch Program
- USDA Food and Nutrition Service National School Lunch Program
- Copy of the School Lunch Act As Enacted in 1946, Federal Education Policy History website (PDF)
- National School Lunch Act - As amended through P.L. 108-269, July 2, 2004 (PDF)
- Amendments made to the National School Lunch Act by the 108th Congress on June 30, 2004 (PDF)
- Technical Requirements Schedule - GB-2006, For USDA Purchases of Ground Beef Items, Frozen
- Food safety concerns
- The Future of America…It’s a Fat Outlook
- Christenson, Jerome . "Minnesota schools seek ways to reduce garbage." MPRnews (2010): n. pag. Web. 31 May 2011. <http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/11/20/school-trash/>.
- "How School Lunch Packaging Waste Adds Up ." About.com n. pag. Web. 31 May 2011. <http://environment.about.com/od/greenlivingdesign/a/school_lunch.htm>.
- Eng, Monica. "Wasting away Pounds of untouched food trashed daily in CPS lunchrooms." Chicago Tribune (2011): n. pag. Web. 31 May 2011. <http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-02-20/news/ct-met-school-lunch-waste-20110220_1_cps-lunchrooms-lunchroom-waste-unwanted-fruit>.
- Cioci, Madalyn, and Tim Farnan. Digging Deep Through School Trash, 2010. Web. 31 May 2011
- "Food Waste & Organics." Ramsey County n. pag. Web. 31 May 2011. <http://www.co.ramsey.mn.us/ph/rt/food_waste_and_organics.htm>.
- Bergman, Ethan. "The Relationship of Meal and Recess Schedules to Plate Waste in Elementary Schools." Journal of Child Nutrition & Management 2 (2004): n. pag. Web. 31 May 2011.
- NSLP Caterer working on healthier menus in Florida KiddieCatering.com 9 June 2011. <http://www.KiddieCatering.com>.