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. §§ 1751-1769j
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

Reports– published and made available by CRS beginning in 2017

Subjects- published by CRS and made available by NALC until 2018:

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
Connecting Local Farmers with USDA Farmers Market Nutrition Program Participants

 Economic Research Service (ERS)

Policy Topics: Food Choices & Health
Diet Quality & Nutrition
Consumer 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
The Food Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Report
Taking a Closer Look at Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participation and Expenditures

Food & Nutrition Service (FNS)

Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act
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
Food Safety
Nutrition & Nutrition Education
Nutrition Programs in the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009
State Systems and the Advance Planning Document Process
SNAP Community Characteristics
FNS Responds to COVID-19

National Agricultural Library (NAL)

Healthy Meals Resource System
Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC)
Guidance for School Food Authorities: Developing a School Food Safety Program Based on the Process Approach to HACCP Principles (1995)

Congressional Resources

WIC: USDA’s Review of Vegetables Available under the Program (GAO-18-125R, November 2017)
Modifications to School Lunches for New Nutrition Standards (GAO-13-708T, June 2013)
Risk of School Children Consuming Recalled Food (GAO-09-649, August 2009)

Other Federal Resources

National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA)
Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (USDA)
SNAP-Ed Connection (USDA)
Nutrition Assistance Programs (Social Security Administration)
Child and Adult Care Food Programs: Afterschool Programs (National Institute of Food and Agriculture)

Additional Resources

Effects of Food Assistance and Nutrition Programs on Nutrition and Health (Fox et. al.)
Chart of Federal Nutrition Programs
State Laws for School Snack Food and Beverages
Food Research and Action Center
National Association of Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs
Feeding America: Impact of Coronavirus on Food Insecurity
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)