National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

Child Nutrition Act of 1966

Last Published: 04/25/2017

By Gordon W. Gunderson 

Child Nutrition Act of 1966

A new dimension was added to school food services with the enactment of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966. In its Declaration of Purpose in Section 2 of the Act, the Congress stated, "In recognition of the demonstrated relationship between food and good nutrition and the capacity of children to develop and learn, based on the years of cumulative successful experience under the National School Lunch Program with its significant contributions in the field of applied nutrition research, it is hereby declared to be the policy of Congress that these efforts shall be extended, expanded, and strengthened under the authority of the Secretary of Agriculture as a measure to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation's children, and to encourage the domestic consumption of agricultural and other foods, by assisting States, through grants-in-aid and other means, to meet more effectively the nutritional needs of our children.”  36

Special Milk Program Extended

Under the provisions of the Act, the Special Milk Program which had been functioning since fiscal 1954 under a separate authorization (Public Law 86-478) was extended to June 30, 1970, and made a part of the Child Nutrition Act. Eligibility for the program included: "(1) nonprofit schools of high school grade and under, and (2) nonprofit nursery schools, child-care centers, settlement houses, summer camps, and similar nonprofit institutions devoted to the care and training of children"  37  --located in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Pilot Breakfast Program

A pilot breakfast program with specific appropriations was authorized for two years, beginning with fiscal year 1966-67 and ending June 30, 1968.

In selecting schools for participation in the program, State educational agencies were required to give first consideration to "schools drawing attendance from areas in which poor economic conditions exist and to those schools to which a substantial proportion of the children enrolled must travel long distances daily.”  38

In cases of extreme need, the Secretary of Agriculture could approve reimbursement rates equivalent to 80 percent of the operating costs of such a program including costs of obtaining, preparing, and serving food. Schools were required to justify the need for the assistance.

The breakfasts were required to meet the nutritional standards established by the Secretary of Agriculture, on the basis of tested nutritional research. Schools were required to serve the meal free of charge or at reduced charge to children who were unable to pay the full charge, and, as in the case of the school lunch program, there could be no segregation of, or discrimination against, any child because of inability to pay.

Nonfood Assistance Funds

Section 5 of the Child Nutrition Act provided Federal funding assistance toward equipment. At least one-fourth of the purchase price of any equipment would have to be provided by State or local funds. Schools were required to justify their requests for Federal funds for equipment purchases. Applications for funds had to be accompanied by a detailed description of the equipment to be purchased and how it would enable the schools to extend the lunch and breakfast services to additional children.

State Administrative Funds

Obviously, the special effort to expand the school lunch program to additional schools and children --particularly those in low income areas where the program was not in operation and to inaugurate breakfast programs in the same or similar areas, would require additional staff on the part of State educational agencies. Inestimable time and effort would be required to assist local schools in planning for remodeling of buildings, additions to buildings, planning efficient kitchen equipment and layouts, and determining what additional personnel would be required for breakfast programs and/or expanded noonday lunch services.

In most States, staffing was inadequate even for effective administration of existing programs and additional funds for increasing such staff was generally out of the question. Therefore, Congress made provisions in section 7 of the Act for funds with which to employ additional personnel in States where State funds were inadequate and could not be increased. Again, States were required to provide detailed justification for the funds requested. 

Centralized School Food Programs Authorized

With several Federal agencies involved to some degree in feeding school children (such as Health, Education and Welfare, Office of Economic Opportunity, Bureau of Indian Affairs) the Congress decided that the "conduct and supervision of Federal programs to assist schools in providing food service programs for children"  39  should be assigned to the Department of Agriculture. This could be accomplished, it was felt, by a transfer of school food service funds from other agencies to USDA.

With all school food services under one Federal agency, there could be uniform standards as to nutrition, sanitation, management of funds, supervision, guidance, use of equipment and space, and some guarantee of program continuity. With several agencies having jurisdiction over various kinds of feeding programs in schools, there often developed dual administration within a school, lack of communication, confusion in records of the use of federally-donated foods, etc. Since the Child Nutrition Act provided for participation in all programs by pre-school children as well as those of elementary and secondary grade levels, the consolidation of all programs was a timely step. Section 13 of the Child Nutrition Act provided the authority for placing all school food services under one agency.  40

Miscellaneous Provisions

Breakfast programs were authorized by the Act to use all commodities donated by the Secretary excepting Section 6 items purchased specifically for school lunch programs.

The benefits of all school feeding programs "conducted and supervised by the Department of Agriculture" were extended to include preschool programs operated as a part of a school system. The Act prohibited Federal and State laws from decreeing that the value of benefits received by any child under the Child Nutrition Act were to be considered as income for such purposes as taxation, welfare or public assistance programs.

1968 Amendments

In 1968 the National School Lunch Act was again amended by:

  • Adding to Section 9 concerning nutritional requirements the wording "except that such minimum nutritional requirements shall not be construed to prohibit substitution of foods to accommodate the medical or other special dietary needs of individual students."  41

  • A new section, number 1, was added extending the eligibility for participation in the program to include children in "service institutions," such term meaning "private, nonprofit institutions or public institutions, such as child day-care centers, settlement houses, or recreation centers, which provide day care, or other child care where children are not maintained in residence, for children from areas in which poor economic conditions exist and from areas in which there are high concentrations of working mothers, and includes public and private nonprofit institutions providing day care services for handicapped children."

"Private or nonprofit institutions that develop special summer programs providing food service similar to that available to children under the National School Lunch or School Breakfast Programs during the school year, including such institutions providing day care services for handicapped children" were also declared eligible. This program became known as the Special Food Service Program for Children. The funds appropriated under the new Section 13 were to be used by the States in reimbursing the service institutions for meals served, the rate of reimbursement to be established by the Secretary of Agriculture. In cases of extreme need, the Secretary could authorize payment up to 80 percent of the cost of operation of a program, including food and labor. Institutions were required to justify the need for assistance.

A State could use up to 26 percent of the funds received to reimburse service institutions for equipment purchased or rented for the program, but the institution would be required to pay at least 25 percent of the cost or rental of the equipment.

Any funds remaining unobligated at the end of any fiscal year could remain available for disbursement during the first three months of the following fiscal year.

Service institutions were authorized by the amendment to use all commodities donated by the Secretary, excepting those purchased under Section 6 of the National School Lunch Act and therefore to be used only for the school lunch program.

Section 4 of the Child Nutrition Act was amended to extend the breakfast program through fiscal year 1971. At the same time, authority was extended to use State administrative funds for program supervision to include special assistance and service institutions where applicable.


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36  Ibid.
37  P.L, 89-642, 89th Congress, Oct. 11, 1966, 80 Stat. 885-890.
38  Ibid.
39  P.L. 89-642, 89th Congress, Oct. 11, 1966, 80 Stat. 885-890.
40  This provision not implemented as of the date of this Publication.
41  P.L. 90-302, 90th Congress, May 8, 1968, 82 Stat. 117.