The federal government requires all public and non-profit private schools in the USA to serve nutritious lunch to school-going children. It has undertaken various testing, evaluations and development that has led to improved nutrition. This program dates more than hundred years. The combined feeding and teaching program in Munich Germany is the earliest traced in history. Benjamin Thompson initiated the program in 1790 to feed the hungry, homeless children.
The landmark of this program was in 1946 when President Harry Truman was involved in signing the National School Lunch Act in 1946 and fully introduced the program into the Government system. He began the program to ensure national security. He observed that there were a lot of young men rejected from joining the World War II due to poor health and childhood malnutrition. Secondly, the program meant to encourage consumption of local foodstuffs produced by farmers (Gunderson, 2011).
Its legislation began sometimes in 1942 with amendment of the Agricultural Act. The Amendments authorized the spending of federal funds on school lunch and school milk programs. In the following year, there was a further improvement on the program where the 78th Congress authorized additional fund into the program. An extra $50 million topped up the previous $50 million for the year 1945-1946. The program expanded moderately that, by the end of 1946, it served about 7 million children in more than 45,120 schools. This was more than 25 percent increase in the number of children covered by the program in just one year (Gunderson, 2011).
In 1946, the 79th congress recognized the importance and the need of a quick expansion of the program. It formed legislation to give the initiative a permanent status and further authorize the expenditure on the program. The Congress enacted the program under the National School Lunch Act. The Act clearly defines the purpose of the Act, which is to safeguard the health of the children as a measure of national security and encourage local consumption of local agricultural products.
A further legislation in 1966 allowed for expansion of the program. The Child Nutrition Act integrated the Special Milk Program into the NLPS. Later, the Federal Government under Section 13 of the Nutrition Act authorized the centralization of all school food services. It put the running of the program under one agency. This was necessary to allow for standardization of all matters related to the program such as, management, supervision, nutrition, and sanitation (Gunderson, 2011).
The benefits of the program are many. A recent study by the Iowa State University stated that the program improves the health of children from poor families (Iowa State University, 2011). The researchers found out that the program eliminated situations of food insecurity among children. They found this finding after sampling 2,693 children from low income households between 6 and 17 years who benefited from the program. Apart from improving the healthy living by 3.8 percent, they report that the rate of obesity and poor general health went down to 17 and 29 percent respectively (Iowa State University, 2011). These findings indicate that the program meets its purpose. Currently, more than 32 million children have an assurance of healthy, nutritious meals.
The major challenge on the guidelines in the program is provision of quality and safety of the food. A recent report indicated that the microbial quality of beef and chicken in the school lunch program was much lower than that in the local restaurants. The agency in charge has the mandate to review guidelines for rigorous checking for the presence of pathogenic organisms.