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USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service leverages its 16 nutrition assistance programs to ensure children, income eligible individuals, and families have equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable foods that promote optimal health and well-being, while building a more resilient food system. FNS accomplishes this by partnering with over 175 states, U.S. territories, and tribal organizations that operate federal nutrition programs. FNS programs serve 1 in 4 Americans over the course of a year.

FNS’s mission is to increase food security and reduce hunger in partnership with cooperating organizations by providing children and low-income people access to food, a healthy diet, and nutrition education in a manner that supports American agriculture and inspires public confidence. Our commitment to nutrition security applies a health equity lens to the way we operate our programs. We recognize that long standing disparities in diet-related diseases are rooted in structural racism and require equities beyond those available in FNS. Therefore, FNS is working with our federal partners and stakeholders across the country to meet the goals of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health to promote and elevate nutrition security.

History of FNS

The agency was established on Aug. 8, 1969, a few months before the first White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health. Many of the programs and activities FNS administers today were formed or expanded due to recommendations from the 1969 Conference. Most notably, this includes:

  • Significant expansions to Food Stamps (now known as SNAP), increasing the number of Americans served from 2 million in 1968 to 11 million by 1971.
  • Increasing the reach of the National School Lunch Program, which served 2 million children before the Conference and expanded to serving 8 million by 1971.
  • Permanent authorization of the National School Breakfast Program in 1975, which was also inspired by the Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast for School Children Program, started in 1969.
  • Authorization of the pilot for the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children in 1972, which later become the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC Program) we know today.
  • Setting the stage for the development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which serve as the cornerstone for federal nutrition assistance programs and the basis of MyPlate.
Page updated: September 07, 2023