50 Years of School Lunch: A Legislative Review
Records kept by the Georgia Department of Education say that in 1946 there was a: least one school lunch program in every city of the 4,745 schools in Georgia in 1946. 1,301 served lunch to students.
Today, all of Georgia's 1.7 66 schools offer lunch to students (and 80 percent of .hem offer breakfast). Much has changed in education since 1946; and although USDA had provided money and food to schools for many years before 1946, certainly much has changed in school nutrition since Congress passed the .National School Lunch Act in June of that year and made the school lunch program permanent.
- Georgia's own Senator Richard B. Russell, along with senators from Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, and Vermont, pushed for passage of a bill that would help "safeguard the health and well-being of the nation's children and encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities and other food."
Passing the National School Lunch Act meant that schools would receive federal money and surplus commodities based on the number of children enrolled. States would be required to match the money they received. The matching requirement could be satisfied with children's meal payments and the reasonable value of services, supplies and equipment furnished by states.
The law said USDA would be the administrator of the School Lunch Program and would identify and set minimum nutrition standards for lunches. Schools would be required to
keep records, which USDA would monitor and audit departments of education would administer the program at the e level and would be given money to meet administrative expenses. The 1946 law also provided an initial $10 million nationwide for nonfood assistance, which could be used for equipment.
- Congress has made many changes to the school lunch program over the past 50 years. In 1954 the Special Milk Program, which allowed students to receive additional milk free or at a nominal cost, was added. It has been revised many times since then. However, the first significant change to the program occurred in a 1962 amendment that changed the basis for funding from the number of schoolchildren in the state to the number of students eating lunch. The amendment also established special assistance, which allowed schools with a high percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals to serve all students set and reduced-price lunches at rates greater than the reimbursement rate for full-price lunches. Before 1970 all lunches had been reimbursed at the same rate.
Other amendments and rule changes during the 1970s affected reimbursement rates, commodity assistance and the sale of foods in schools, such as soft drinks, candy and, rn, that competed with school lunch for children's appetites and money. In 1975 Congress passed an amendment to require states to offer reduced-price lunches to children meeting the income criteria.
Previously reduced-price meals had been an option for states.
- And, because of concern about plate waste, or the amount of food students were throwing away the1975 amendment also required that lunches be "offered" to students rather than served. A meal would be reimbursable as long as the student selected at least three items. The three items had to include the entree and milk. Offer versus serve applied initially to high schools but was expanded as an option to middle schools in 1977 and eventually to elementary schools. Also in 1977 Congress funded the Nutrition Education and Training Program, which was meant to provide additional nutrition education for students and teachers and training for nutrition employees.
- The Omnibus Reconciliation Acts of 1980 and 1981 marked a dramatic change in the school lunch program. For the first time in its history, changes were of a cost-saving nature rather than expansionary. Reimbursement rates were cut and portions of both the National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act were deleted or revised.
School lunch programs in Georgia and the nation spent the 19SOs adjusting to the 1980-81 funding cuts and coping with the changing tenor of the times. In 1987 the Commodity Distribution Reform Act requiring states to replace the rail side delivery system with a commercial delivery system was passed. Several states already had such a system in place. Georgia had begun a commercial delivery system in 1933.
- The Child Nutrition and NVIC Reauthorization Act of 1989 laid the groundwork for the first major overhaul of nutrition standards for school meals since those established in 1946. It required that USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services develop "Nutrition Guidance for Child Nutrition Programs" and that USDA revise school menu planning guides. Among other things it required schools to serve low-fat milk in addition to whole milk, and it required USDA to reduce paperwork and simplify meal eligibility applications.
- The next significant legislation affecting the program was the Child Nutrition Act of 1966. Its major emphasis was adding, new funds for school breakfast programs, equipment assistance and expansion of special assistance. It also added money for state administrative expenses so that state education agencies could provide additional assistance to schools.
In 1970 the National School Lunch Act was amended to require, for the first time that USDA establish uniform national guidelines for eligibility for free and reduced-price lunches. Eligibility would be based on existing poverty guidelines. This amendment provided for reimbursement of free
School and Community Nutrition • Georgia Department of Education • 1996
- The Healthy Meals for Healthy Americans Act of 1994 put the new nutrition standards for school meals into place by requiring that meals meet the Dietary Guidelines and the RDAs by school year 1996-97. To help schools meet the new nutrition requirements, the act provided for technical assistance and training for school-level nutrition employees. Other provisions made serving whole milk optional in certain situation, requiring instead that schools offer a variety of milks.
The act also provided for an increase in the use of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and grain foods.