National School Lunch Act

The Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (79 P.L. 396, 60 Stat. 230) is a United States federal law that created the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to provide low-cost or free school lunch meals to qualified students through subsidies to schools. The program was established as a way to prop up food prices by absorbing farm surpluses, while at the same time providing food to school age children. It was named after Richard Russell, Jr., signed into law by President Harry S. Truman in 1945, and entered the federal government into schools dietary programs on June 4, 1946.

The majority of the support provided to schools participating in the program comes in the form of a cash reimbursement for each meal served. Schools are also entitled to receive commodity foods and additional commodities as they are available from surplus agricultural stocks. The National School Lunch Program serves 30.5 million children each day at a cost of $8.7 billion for fiscal year 2007. Most participants are also eligible for food during the summer through the Summer Food Service Program.

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