New York City was among the earliest of the urban school districts to implement a consistent school lunch program in the United States. More than 50 years prior to its formal integration into city schools, New York City’s Children’s Aid Society began a school lunch program in 1853. These and other scattered volunteer and non-profit efforts were taken up nationwide by municipal school boards and integrated into the larger efforts to address the growing nutritional needs of America’s urban schoolchildren.

As a federally funded school food program evolved from its inception in the first half of the 20th century to become a permanent fixture in the educational landscape across the country, the NYC school food program became a leading influence in the country’s experiments, failures, and successes in school food service. School and city officials sorted through the wrong ingredients for school lunches and exposed the detrimental effects of decreased funding for school lunch programs. Read more