National School Lunch Program

  • First Free Lunch

    The Children's Aid Society of New York initiated a program to serve meals to students attending a vocational school. (
  • Penny Lunches

    Penny Lunches
    In Philadelphia, the Starr Center Association began serving penny lunches. This led to a lunch committee, the Home and School League, being established and lunch was expanded to nine schools.
  • Milwaukee

    Women's School Alliance of Wisconsin began providing lunches to three centers in areas in which both parents were working. The project was supported by donations from private individuals, churches, societies, and clubs. Six more centers were added by 1910.
  • Boston

    Early lunch programs began with the Women's Educational and Industrial Union. They began serving hot lunches in September to high school under the supervision of the Boston School Committee.
  • William H. Maxwell

    William H. Maxwell
    The Superintendent of Schools in New York begged the Board of Education to establish facilities in every school to provide lunch for students at cost price. A committee with physicians and social workers was organized to keep meals at 3 cents and then piloted in two schools. Program was expanded two years later.
  • Dr. Cheesman A. Herrick

    The principal for William Penn High School for Girls transferred responsibilities for operation and support of the lunch program from charitable organizations to the Philadelphia School Board.
  • Cincinnati, OH

    Penny lunches are offered in at least one school. The school board provided equipment.
  • Cleveland, OH

    Elementary food service begins through the Cleveland Federation of Women's Clubs. They began serving breakfast to 19 children at Eagle School. One school was added in 1910 and by 1915 meals w4ere provided for all special classes in grade school. (
  • Experimental Program

    An experimental program for elementary schools provided a mid-morning lunch prepared by Home Economics classes three days a week. Sandwiches were served the other two days. Before the end of the school year, the program expanded into five other schools.
  • Chicago, IL

    Chicago Board of Education begins authorizing food services in school. By 1916 it had grown to operate in 28 elementary schools and 31 high schools. By 1921, services were operational in all of Chicago's schools.
  • St. Louis, MO

    Five schools in the city were selected for an experiment in school lunch services for elementary schools. At this time, high schools already had established food services.
  • Department of High School Lunches

    Department of High School Lunches
    The Philadelphia School Board declared that food services be available in all high schools of the city.
  • Cleveland Expands

    All normal and high schools, except for two, were provided with lunch services.
  • No More Home and School League

    No More Home and School League
    Philadelphia School Board places high schools and all elementary schools under the supervision of the Department of High School Lunches. The program is extended.
  • A Change in Responsibility

    Responsibility for school lunches in New York changed from volunteer organizations to the Board of Education.
  • Los Angeles, CA

    Los Angeles, CA
    The Board of Education provides a lunch program serving 9 high schools, 8 intermediate, and 31 elementary schools. Programs at high schools were managed by student body associations or a cafeteria director selected from the Home Economics Department.
  • Reconstruction Finance Corporation

    Federal aid came in the form of loans to towns in southwestern Missouri to cover the cost of labor employed in preparing and serving school lunches.
  • Civil Works and Federal Emergency Relief Administrations

    These programs were available in 39 states and covered the employment of over 7,000 women.
  • State Legislation

    Fifteen states passed laws authorizing local school boards to operate lunchrooms. Four states made special provisions for needy/poor students, providing them with free lunches.
  • WWII War Food Programs

    Gordon W. Gunderson was elected to represent the U S Department of Agriculture. He distributed donated commodities in Wisconson to establish lunch programs during the war.
  • National School Lunch Act

    National School Lunch Act
    Enacted by President Truman, its purpose was to safeguard the health and well-being of the nation's children and to encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities and other food at school. (
  • NSLP First Year

    7 million students participate.
  • Special Milk Program

    Established to increase milk consumption by children in schools and childcare institutions. (
  • National School Lunch Week

    National School Lunch Week
    Established by a Joint Resolution of Congress. President John F. Kennedy issued the proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe this week with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
  • Child Nutrition Act

    The Child Nutrition Act was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
    It expanded the National School Lunch Act of 1946 and authorizes all of the federal school meal and child nutrition programs. The Act provides funding to ensure access to food for low-income students.
  • SMP Merge

    The Special Milk Program is incorporated into the Child Nutrition Act.
  • School Lunches- Fighting Hunger in America (A History)

    School Lunches- Fighting Hunger in America (A History)
  • Federal Spending Slashed

    In an attempt to cut government waste, President Reagan's administration slashed federal school lunch spending by $1.5 billion. To reduce the budget, lunch portion sizes were shrunk. This also reduced funding for low-income students to receive free meals.
  • Healthier Lunches?

    150 school lunch recipes were reconfigured to have less salt and sugar. This made them more cost-efficient to prepare.
  • Privatized Lunches

    During the 1980's and 1990's there was less federal support for school lunches. Nutrition standards took a back seat to the bottom line.
  • Contract with America

    The Contract with America cut funding for welfare programs. School lunches affected. The responsibility of providing lunches for children was shifted from the federal to state level and funding was given to states in the form of block grants rather than traditional fund allocation. This allowed states to reallocate some of the money meant for food. (
  • After School Snacks

    After School Snacks
    Congress expands the NSLP to include reimbursement for snacks that are served to students after school programs.
  • Cost Increase

    Cost Increase
    The cost of providing lunch for students increases. Schools in some states had to increase the cost to keep up with the increase in food costs. This increase only affected students who were already paying full price. Free and reduced lunches stayed the same. Schools had to take a financial loss to provide food.
  • Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act

    Allows the Department of Agriculture to overhaul school meals to meet new nutrition standards. (
  • Plate Waste

    Plate Waste
    New health guidelines change the amount of fruits and vegetables that have to be provided to students. This leads to increased food waste as students are not eating everything that has to be put on their plates. (
  • 2019 Average Cost

    On average, the NSLP provided low-cost or free lunches to 29.6 million children each school day in 2019. The total cost was $14.2 billion.
  • Eat Your Fruits and Veggies

    Eat Your Fruits and Veggies
  • Universal Meals

    Trailer legislation as part of the 2021‑22 budget package requires that, beginning in 2022‑23, all California schools provide one free breakfast and one free lunch per school day to any student requesting a meal. (,any%20student%20requesting%20a%20meal.)
  • Increase Funding to Support School Meals

    Increase Funding to Support School Meals
    There is an adjustment in school meal reimbursements that will help schools continue to serve children healthy and nutritious meals. This will provide an estimated $750 million more for school meal programs across the nation. Federal reimbursements will keep pace with food and operational costs while ensuring children continue to receive healthy meals at school. (