Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Signing of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966

October 11, 1966

Secretary Freeman, Senator Ellender, Members of the Congress:

This is a memorable day for the children of America

--for the child who arrives at school hungry, because there was no breakfast for him to eat at home.

--for the child who goes to school where no lunches are served, because there were no facilities to serve him with.

--for the preschool child who is enrolled in school-related activities. This legislation which I shall shortly sign is their program, the children's program-the Child Nutrition Act of 1966.

This Child Nutrition Act of 1966 will make it possible to close the nutrition gap among children in school.

I know what it is to teach children who are listless and tired because they are hungry-and realize the difference a decent meal can make in the lives and attitudes of school children. It can be a heartbreaking and a frustrating experience, if there is nowhere to turn for help when your child is hungry.

This was just one more situation that I saw when I was a very young man, and that I have been trying to do something about, and have determined to do something about ever since.

It is fitting that this landmark legislation becomes law during National School Lunch Week, October 9 to 15. Twenty years ago Congress enacted and President Truman signed the National School Lunch Act. They recognized that good nutrition is essential to good learning. So today, lunch at school is available to almost three-fourths of all children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools.

But major gaps still remain. The Child Nutrition Act is designed to help close those major gaps:

--Thousands of children go to schools that simply cannot afford to finance the basic equipment for food service. This act will help finance such equipment.

--Thousands of children arrive at school hungry because they have no breakfast. This act provides for breakfasts at school.

--Thousands of very young children are now enrolled in preschool activities. They have not been eligible to take part in the national school lunch program. This act provides assistance for them, too.

--The States have always borne the full administrative costs of school food services. This act provides for administrative funds to help the States meet the challenge of reaching out to those children who have already been bypassed.

--Authority for the special milk program was to expire next June 30. This act continues this useful supplement to child nutrition for another 3 years.

The Child Nutrition Act of 1966 will help enable us to bring a food service within the reach of every child in school. With its programs and the programs now available under the national school lunch program, we can continue to close the nutrition gap among schoolchildren in the next 5 years.

I am today instructing the Secretary of Agriculture to set this target as his goal.

This legislation was the work of many people.

I want to especially mention Reverend C. B. Woodrich, whose pioneering efforts with poor children in the Denver, Colorado, area has shown how important this program can be to our future. To Senator Ellender, Congressmen Cooley and Harlan Hagen, and to all the other Members of Congress here with us today and all the Members who helped enact this measure, on behalf of all the children of America we say--thank you, and the children say thank you, too.

Note: The President spoke at 6 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Secretary of Agriculture Orville L. Freeman and Senator Allen J. Ellender of Louisiana. Later he referred to, among others, Representative Harold D. Cooley of North Carolina and Representative Harlan Hagen of California.

As enacted, the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 is Public Law 89-642 (80 Stat. 885).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Signing of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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