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P.L. 79-396 (June 4, 1946) authorized federal cash and commodity support for school lunch and milk programs, "...as a measure of national security..." in response to claims that many American men had been rejected for military service in World War II because of diet-related health problems. Beginning in the early 1930's federal support had been provided for school lunch programs through donations of surplus commodities, and when these dried up during the War, by grants provided under annual appropriations laws. The original National School Lunch Act established multi-year authority for the financing of school feeding programs. It since has been amended numerous times and now permanently authorizes the national school lunch program and the child and adult care food program. Federally guaranteed subsidies are provided for every lunch served, with higher amounts generally provided for lunches served to low-income children who meet income criteria set by the law. This Act also requires federal payments for meals and snacks served to children and elderly and disabled persons in day care facilities (the child and adult care food program) and children in summer programs operated in low-income areas (the summer food service program), and it requires a set value of commodity assistance for each lunch served under these programs. Other activities supported by this Act include meals supplements for children in after-school care, a homeless children nutrition program, meal service for Department of Defense overseas dependents schools , and an information clearinghouse.

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