How did Nixon “reform” school lunch?
Shortly after taking office in 1969, President Richard Nixon convened a White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health, appointing Dr. Jean Mayer as conference chairman. A trained chemist, Mayer served as director of Harvard’s School of Nutrition and shared Nixon’s ambition to “put an end to hunger for all time.” Among the 1,800 recommendations issued by the Conference were major changes to the National School Lunch Program, including additional funding and reforms to how that funding was distributed to ensure that poor children had access to free meals. Working with officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Nixon Administration developed a new reimbursement system in which federal dollars would be dispersed to school districts based on the number of free and reduced-price meals served. In addition to subsidizing local lunch programs through distributions of surplus agricultural commodities, USDA would now be offering cash payments to reimburse the cost of free and reduced-price lunches. In 1971, USDA also issued new eligibility guidelines for those reimbursements that tied eligibility for free and reduced-price lunches to the federal poverty line. In combination, these reforms ensured that as funding for the NSLP increased, a much larger share of that funding would be devoted exclusively to providing free and reduced-price meals.
Susan Levine, School Lunch Politics: The Surprising History of America’s Favorite Welfare Program (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008): 174.
Galleries & Exhibits
- 11865-1925: Hunger in the Industrial City
- 21929-1940: America in Crisis and Recovery
- 31945-1965: WWII and the Paradoxes of the Postwar Era
- 41955-1980: The Fight for the Right to Food
- 51975-1996: The Unmaking of the Great Society
- 61997-Present: How It Is — And How It Should Be