In the early 20th century, communities and philanthropists came together to provide lunch to hungry school children. Some recognized that children couldn’t learn as well when they were hungry and others felt a moral imperative to meet this basic need. Decades later, the federal government joined in these efforts and launched the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Since its inception, the NSLP has reduced the incidence of malnutrition, boosted intake of protein, fiber, and other nutrients for children, and increased educational attainment. In 2015 more than 30 million children received lunch every day, in about 100,000 schools and other institutions across the country.
In today’s economy the continuation of education beyond high school is common and increasingly necessary for a well-paying job. But many of the nation’s undergraduates are struggling to concentrate on their education due to hunger. Over 200 food pantries are operating on college and university campuses and staff and faculty are reaching into their own pockets to provide lunch money to struggling students. Federal support to address this problem may improve academic achievement among undergraduates, as it has among schoolchildren, boosting degree completion rates. We therefore propose expanding the NSLP to higher education.