The School Breakfast Program (SBP) was established in 1966 as a two-year
pilot project designed to provide categorical grants to assist schools serving breakfasts
to "nutritionally needy" children. While the term "nutritionally
needy" was not defined, the original legislation stipulated that first consideration
for program implementation was to be given to schools located in poor areas or in areas
where children had to travel a great distance to school. To encourage schools in needy
areas to participate, Congress authorized higher federal payments for schools determined
to be in "severe need." During the first year of operation, the SBP served about
80,000 children at a federal cost of $573,000.
During the next few years, the pilot program was extended several times, and a number
of modifications were made to expand the program. In 1971, Congress directed that priority
consideration for the program would include schools in which there was a special need to
improve the nutrition and dietary practices of children of working mothers and children
from low-income families. Even more important, in 1973, the categorical grant
reimbursement structure was replaced by a system of specific per-meal reimbursement.
In 1975 the program received permanent authorization. As part of the legislation making
the SBP permanent, Congress declared its intent that the program "be made available
in all schools where it is needed to provide adequate nutrition for children in
attendance." Moreover, the legislation continued to emphasize participation by
schools in severe need and to provide higher reimbursement to these schools.