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Statement on Signing a Bill Expanding School Lunch and Child Nutrition Programs.

May 14, 1970

THE LEGISLATION that I am signing today, H.R. 515, amends and improves the National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act. This legislation will help the administration achieve its goal of expanding the school lunch program for all children and providing free or reduced-price lunches for every needy child.

In the year which has passed since I sent to the Congress my message on this subject, the fight to eliminate hunger and malnutrition in America has come a long way. More than 9 million needy persons now participate in government food programs--an increase of 30 percent over last May. Participation in the food stamp program has increased by 55 percent. Significant reforms in that program include a new schedule of payments and bonuses so that all participating families can receive enough food stamps to purchase an economy level diet. The program has also been expanded in a geographic sense, for while there were 440 counties with no family food assistance plans a year ago, there are now only 73.

At the same time that these reforms have gone into effect, the Office of Economic Opportunity has expanded the food portion of its Emergency Food and Medical Services program from $ 17 million to $48.8 million. A new Food and Nutrition Service has been established in the Department of Agriculture to administer Federal food programs. The White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health was held in December and many of its recommendations have already been implemented.

The child nutrition programs which this legislation affects have also been growing in the past year, and, together with our other efforts, provide the legislative framework to meet the balanced nutritional requirements of our needy children. More than 20 million children now participate in the national school lunch program at an average price to each student of 30 cents per meal. Of these children, 4.8 million are needy students who receive lunches entirely without cost or at a substantially reduced price. This figure represents a 40 percent increase in the last year--and the number of participants should continue to grow in the months ahead.

The child nutrition programs--school lunch, school breakfast, and food programs in day care centers and summer camps--can have an important impact on the life of those who participate in them. Because the student who is well fed is more attentive and learns better, improved nutrition can help children break out of the cycle of poverty.

The legislation I am signing will do much to improve these programs. Local school boards will have more flexibility in budgeting under this legislation, since Federal funds can be appropriated a year in advance and since funds can be shifted from one program to another. H.R. 515 also provides for a modest level of matching funds to come from State revenues. In addition, it will assure that every child from a family whose income falls below the poverty line will get a free or reduced. price lunch.

The child nutrition programs are cooperative programs which are run by State and local governments, with Federal support. This legislation represents an important Federal effort to improve these programs. I hope that State and local governments will also do all they can to move forward in this critical area.

Note: As enacted, H.R. 515 is Public Law 91-248 (84 Stat. 207).

Richard Nixon, Statement on Signing a Bill Expanding School Lunch and Child Nutrition Programs. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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