Framing the National School Lunch Program
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The National School Lunch Program, established in 1946 under the National School Lunch Act, has grown from a commodity surplus distribution program in its early days, to its current incarnation as a nutrition program for lower income students. This paper addresses the following question, “are particular framing choices influenced by a representatives’ district or individual characteristics, or are party considerations more important in determining framing language?” Certain frameworks may be more effective for creating policy change, and given that framing shapes the way humans conceptualize a problem space, framing should be a deliberate tool used in order to constrain the debate around certain problems. In support of this claim, existing framing literature and literature on human cognition indicates that framing plays a vital role in defining the terms of debate and mobilizing the public around certain issues. However, the actual details of debate shifts and issue framing often become a ‘black box’ in theories of policy change. Content analysis of floor statements made over a 16-year period regarding the National School Lunch Program reveals that policy framing is highly dependent on district characteristics, but that language use itself does not appear to have changed significantly in the time period studied.