History & Background on School Meals
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally assisted meal program operating in nearly 100,000 public and nonprofit private schools and residential childcard institutions. Established under the National School Lunch Act and signed into Law by President Harry Truman in 1946, the NSLP provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost and free lunches to more than 29 million children each school day. Nearly 5 billion lunches are served annually and the program receives almost 8 billion federal dollars each year. More than 95% of all U.S. schools participate in the NSLP.
School districts and independent schools that choose to participate in the NSLP receive cash subsidies and donated commodities from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for each meal served. NSLP meals must be offered for free or at a reduced-price for eligible children. They also must meet the federal nutrition requirements in accordance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Child Nutrition Act of 1966. The School Breakfast Program (SBP) was established in this Act but not made permanent until 1975. The SBP is a federally assisted meal program that provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free breakfasts to children in schools. The SBP operates in more than 80,000 schools and child-care institutions and serves approximately 9.7 million children each school day.
Under the NSLP, schools can also offer snacks served to children in after-school educational or enrichment programs.
School nutrition programs face many challenges on a daily basis, while striving to offer nutritious meals to children. These challenges include: Nutrition Standards; The need for Affordable Meals; Perceptions; Commerical Influences; Student Preferences; The Need for Appealing Choices; Cultural Diversity; Food Safety Concerns; and Health Related Concerns.