National School Lunch Act

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 signed by President Harry S. Truman in 1946.[1] The act created the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), a program 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.[2]

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.

Under this act, most participants are also eligible for food during the summer through the Summer Food Service Program.


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 states Department of Education's nutrition services, Regardless 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.

Food Safety

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 and 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 (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.[3]


The current nutrition standards being used by the National School Lunch Program and National School Breakfast program were established in 1995. At the request of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Institute of Medicine assembled a committee to recommend updates and revisions to the school lunch and breakfast programs.[4]

The first report, Nutrition Standards and Meal Requirements for National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs: Phase I. Proposed Approach for Recommending Revisions provides information about the committee's approach as it reviews the school lunch and breakfast programs.[5] Phase II of the report is expected in Fall 2009, and the committee will share its findings and recommendations to bring these meals more in line with today’s dietary guidelines.

In late 2009, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies released,School Meals: Building Blocks For Healthy Children.[6] 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.


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, professor of medicine and director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida. "We are not using those same standards."[7]

See also

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External links

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