War Food Administration Poster, 1944 (Source: NARA)
The National Archives and Records Administration writes:
“In its early years, school lunch was a child welfare program. Later it became a matter of national security. Malnourished children did not grow up to be good soldiers. In 1943 the War Food Administration took over—and dramatically expanded—the federal school lunch program.”
Just two years later, Congress enacted the National School Lunch Act, which directed excess farm products to America’s schools.
Susan Levine, School Lunch Politics: The Surprising History of America’s Favorite Welfare Program (Princeton University Press, 2008)
You may order a copy of this book here.
Reviewed by Kevin R. Kosar
Each school day, the National School Lunch Program provides reduced cost or free lunches to about 30 million school children. The program, which has been around since 1946, costs taxpayers over $8 billion per year. In view of its size and activities, it is astonishing that so little has been written about it. Susan Levine has done us a service, then, in producing School Lunch Politics, which describes the politics that produced and shaped the program over the decades.
As told by Levine, the National School Lunch Program is a tale of politics and the suboptimal policy it so frequently produces.
This law (P.L. 79-396; 60 Stat. 230) entered the federal government into schools dietary programs on June 4, 1946.