Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type



Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Keiko Tanaka


This study examines the social actors and issues involved in constructing and contesting the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), in order to identify whose interests are involved in shaping an institution which transmits dietary habits and food knowledge to the nation’s children through the mid day meal.

For the historical analysis, I collected data from historical accounts of the NSLP, congressional hearings, laws, and newspaper articles. For the contemporary analysis, I interviewed 15 actors representing organizations key to federal NLSP policy making. To frame my analysis, I utilize a model of power, based on the work of Arts and Van Tatenhove (2004), and the work of Burstein (1991), who describes issue creation and movement in policy domains.

The key findings of this study are that actors with the most financial resources (e.g. the food industry) do not automatically achieve their interests in the policy making process. In fact, at key times of contestation, economically powerful actors form alliances and adjust their agenda in reaction to the use of other forms of power by economically weaker actors. This information can help economically weaker actors (e.g. the farm to school movement) understand how to increase their influence in the policy domain.