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National School Lunch Act

National School Lunch Act

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The Richard B. Russell
Richard Russell, Jr.
Richard Brevard Russell, Jr. was a Democratic Party politician from the southeastern state of Georgia. He served as state governor from 1931 to 1933 and United States senator from 1933 to 1971....

 National School Lunch Act
(79 P.L. 396, 60 Stat. 230) is a United States federal law signed by President Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

 in 1946. 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.

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
Summer Food Service Program
The Summer Food Service Program operates in low-income areas during the summer months to provide meals and snacks to children in summer day camps. Federal support consists of guaranteed cash and commodity assistance and support for administration and operating expenses. It is authorized under the...


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
Agricultural Marketing Service
The Agricultural Marketing Service is a division of the United States Department of Agriculture, and has programs in five commodity areas: cotton and tobacco; dairy; fruit and vegetable; livestock and seed; and poultry...

 (AMS) undertook an ambitious agenda a few years ago to provide schools with a consistent supply of safe and low fat ground beef
Ground beef
Beef mince, ground beef, hamburger meat , hamburg or minced meat is a minced meat food, made of beef finely chopped by a mincer. It is used in many recipes including hamburgers and cottage pie...


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
Continuous auditing
Continuous auditing is the independent application of automated tools to provide assurance on financial, compliance, strategic and operational data within a company. Continuous auditing uses a set of tools to assure the internal control system is functioning to prevent fraud, errors and waste...

 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.


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
Institute of Medicine
The Institute of Medicine is a not-for-profit, non-governmental American organization founded in 1970, under the congressional charter of the National Academy of Sciences...

 assembled a committee to recommend updates and revisions to the school lunch and breakfast programs.

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. 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. 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 restaurant
Fast food restaurant
A fast food restaurant, also known as a Quick Service Restaurant or QSR within the industry itself, is a specific type of restaurant characterized both by its fast food cuisine and by minimal table service...

s were far more rigorous in checking for bacteria
Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

 and dangerous pathogen
A pathogen gignomai "I give birth to") or infectious agent — colloquially, a germ — is a microbe or microorganism such as a virus, bacterium, prion, or fungus that causes disease in its animal or plant host...

s in beef
Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially domestic cattle. Beef can be harvested from cows, bulls, heifers or steers. It is one of the principal meats used in the cuisine of the Middle East , Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Europe and the United States, and is also important in...

 and chicken
Chicken (food)
Chicken is the most common type of poultry in the world, and is prepared as food in a wide variety of ways, varying by region and culture.- History :...

 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
Emerging Pathogens Institute
The Emerging Pathogens Institute is an interdisciplinary research institution associated with the University of Florida. The Institute is charged with fusing key disciplines to develop outreach, education, and research capabilities designed to preserve the region's health and economy, and to...

 at the University of Florida
University of Florida
The University of Florida is an American public land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant research university located on a campus in Gainesville, Florida. The university traces its historical origins to 1853, and has operated continuously on its present Gainesville campus since September 1906...

. "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.

See also

  • Child Nutrition Act
    Child Nutrition Act
    The Child Nutrition Act is a United States federal law signed on October 11, 1966 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The Act was created as a result of the "years of cumulative successful experience under the National School Lunch Program to help meet the nutritional needs of children." The National...

     of 1966
  • Child and Adult Care Food Program
    Child and Adult Care Food Program
    The Child and Adult Care Food Program is a type of United States Federal assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to States in order to provide a daily subsidized food service for an estimated 3.2 million children and 112,000 elderly or mentally or physically impaired adults in...

  • Tino De Angelis
    Tino De Angelis
    Anthony "Tino" De Angelis is a Bayonne, New Jersey based commodities trader who bought and sold vegetable oil futures around the world. In 1962 he started to corner the market for soybean oil, used in salad dressing. In the aftermath, investors learned that he had bilked them out of about $175...

     Intentionally sold spoiled meat to the National School Lunch program.
  • Free school meal
    Free school meal
    A Free School Meal, provided to a child or young person during a school break, is paid for by Government. For a child to qualify for a Free School Meal, their parent or carer must be receiving particular qualifying benefits as stated by Government...

  • Nutrition for Learning
    Nutrition for Learning
    Nutrtition for Learning is a registered charitable organization located in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. Nutrition for Learning became a registered charitable organization in 1997 and continues to support student nutrition programs in schools, churches and community centres in the geographical area...

    (in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada)

External links