Nutrition Programs


Although the United States has one of the most advanced food systems in the world, many Americans find it difficult to maintain a filling and nutritious diet. As a result, several federal programs have developed in an effort to assist those in need. The Food and Nutrition Service (“FNS”), a sub-agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, implements and oversees many of these programs, the primary focus of which are providing supplemental food to low-income individuals. However, in addition helping people get the food they need, there is an increasing focus on nutrition education, and helping people make decisions about the quality of the food they eat. These issues affect so many individuals that the FNS currently reports that one in five Americans are helped by nutrition programs. Most nutrition programs are targeted at a specific group of people who are deemed to face a higher risk of nutrition problems. The overview is designed to provide a brief description of the major federal nutrition programs and how they operate. Read the full overview

Note: Recently added resources are posted at the top of the applicable sections.

Major Statutes

Agricultural Act of 2014, 7 U.S.C. §§ 2011-2036

Agriculture and Consumer Protection Act of 1973, 7 U.S.C. § 612c

Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, 7 U.S.C. § 3007

Emergency Food Assistance Act of 1983, 7 U.S.C. 7501-7517

Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1751-1769i

Child Nutrition Act of 1966, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1771-1793

School Breakfast Program, 42 U.S.C. § 1773

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, 42 U.S.C. § 1786


Food Stamp and Food Distribution Program, 7 C.F.R. Parts 271-285
Child Nutrition Programs, 7 C.F.R. Parts 210-249

Case Law

Case Law Index for Nutrition Programs

Administrative Law Decisions

Center published USDA Judicial Officer’s Decisions

Congressional Research Service Reports

CRS Subject(s):

Farm Bills
Food Security/Aid

Agricultural Law Bibliography

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Legal publications on Nutrition Programs:

Farm Policy and Legislative Analysis
Food and Drug Law
Fruits and Vegetables — Perishable Agricultural Commodities
Hunger and Food Security Issues
Sustainable and Organic Farming

Reference Resources

Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)

Bridging the Technological Divide: A Guide to Accepting Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets

 Economic Research Service (ERS)

Policy Topics: Food Choices & Health

Diet Quality & Nutrition

Education, Information & Labeling

Food Access

Food Consumption & Demand


Policy Topics: Food & Nutrition Assistance

Child Nutrition Programs
Food & Nutrition Assistance Research
Food Security in the United States
Poverty & Income Volatility
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
The WIC Program

Food & Nutrition Assistance Publications

Food & Nutrition Service

Supplemental Nutrition Program and Farmers’ Markets
Food Distribution Programs

Commodity Supplemental Food Program
Food Distribution on Indian Reservations Program
The Emergency Food Assistance Program

Child Nutrition Programs

Child & Adult Care Food Program
Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program
National School Lunch Program
School Breakfast Program
Special Milk Program
Summer Food Service Program

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Community Outreach

Women, Infants & Children (WIC)

Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program

Food Distribution Disaster Assistance
State Processing Program
Food Safety

Guidance for School Food Authorities: Developing a School Food Safety Program Based on the Process Approach to HACCP Principles (1995)

Nutrition & Nutrition Education
Nutrition Programs in the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009
Food Security Resources

National Agricultural Library (NAL)

Healthy Meals Resource System
Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC)
Nutrition Assistance Programs

Congressional Resources

Risk of School Children Consuming Recalled Food (GAO-09-649, August 2009)

Other Federal Resources

Nutrition Assistance Programs (Social Security Administration)
Child Care & After-School Programs (National Institute of Food and Agriculture)

Additional Resources

State Laws for School Snack Food and Beverages

Food Research and Action Center

National Association of Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs

For a compilation of state child nutrition program offices, click here.

Publications (not freely available)

School Lunch Politics: The Surprising History of America’s Favorite Welfare Program (Levine, 2010)