"The Hunger Games" Media Representation of the National School Lunch Program


Social Work

Date of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)

Type of Paper/Work

Clinical research paper


Jessica Toft


The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) was designed to help ease the financial burden of eligible families and provide a hot and nutritious meal for students. This program offers assistance to families who otherwise may not be able to afford consistent nutritious meals for their children. There is a lack of research in the area of media representation of public welfare programs, including the National School Lunch Program. The purpose of this research was to examine how both national (The New York Times) and local (Minneapolis Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press) newspapers portrayed NSLP in the 1960's, 1980's, and 2000's. This study used the grounded theory data analysis method to facilitate a textual analysis. Findings indicated that in the 1960's there was support as well as acknowledgement that something needed to be done about hunger in America and NSLP created a sense of social justice and responsibility for many during this time. In the 1980's the predominant discourse centered on the costs of the NSLP program and ways to cut the budget, but there were voices in favor of expanding the program, too. Finally in the 2000s, while social responsibility started to emerge again as a theme, the discourse shifted to the nutrition of the program and how to efficiently feed those who need it. Interestingly, across all three decades, the influence of stigma for those using the NSLP was either evident in the prose of the discourse or in the experiences of children portrayed in the discourse. Future research should focus on how race plays a part in the portrayal of NSLP in the media, and the enduring influence of stigmatization of public assistance programs, even those that help children.


national school lunch program, discourse analysis, nutrition, barriers, access, stigma

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.