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The History of the School Lunch Program



Have you ever wondered why schools offer a school lunch program or when and why the school lunch program was created? Read this article for more information on the history of the school lunch program. You may be surprised.

President Harry S. Truman began the national school lunch program in 1946 as a measure of national security. He did so after reading a study that revealed many young men had been rejected from the World War II draft due to medical conditions caused by childhood malnutrition. Since that time more than 180 million lunches have been served to American children who attend either a public school or a non-profit private school.

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson extended the program by offering breakfast to school children. It began as a two years pilot program for children in rural areas and those living in poorer neighborhoods. It was believed that these children would have to skip breakfast in order to catch the bus for the long ride to school. There were also concerns that the poorer families could not always afford to feed their children breakfast. Johnson believed, like many of us today, that children would do better in school if they had a good breakfast to start their day. The pilot was such a success that it was decided the program should continue. By 1975, breakfast was being offered to all children in public or non-profit private school. This change was made because educators felt that more children were skipping breakfast due to both parent being in the workforce.

In 1968, a summer meals program was offered to low income children. Breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks are still available to students each year, during the summer break. Any child in need can apply for the program at the end of the school year. Parents that are interested in the summer meals program should contact their local school administration.

Since its inception, the school lunch/meals programs have become available in more than 98,800 schools. The 2004/05 school year reported that over 9.2 million children participated in the breakfast and lunch programs; and as many as 1.6 million children took advantage of the summer meals program that same year.

Although the programs started as a something for children from lower income families, they are now offered to all children. Some families will have the meals provided to them either for free or at a reduced rate, depending on the family's income. However, the program is a really good deal for all parents who have children attending a public or non-profit private school. During the 2004/05 school year, child of a moderate to higher income family would spend on average $1.50 for a lunch or breakfast ticket each day.

For more information on the nutritional requirements of the Federal School Lunch and Breakfast Programs visit fns.usda.gov/cnd/

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