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History of FNS

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 federal nutrition assistance programs. The mission of FNS is to increase food and nutrition security and reduce hunger by providing children and low-income people access to food, a healthful diet and nutrition education in a way that supports American agriculture and inspires public confidence.

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.

FNS works in partnership with states, U.S. territories, and Tribal organizations that operate federal nutrition programs.

Congress obligated more than $184 billion for FNS programs in fiscal year 2021, including annual appropriations and pandemic funding. Estimated obligations for 2022 total $209.7 billion. By comparison, FNS programs cost $1.6 billion in 1970, the first full year of the agency's operation