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About American public school lunch
What people eat in all places and times depends upon who they are (religion, ethnic background), where they live (North side of Boston? Rural Nebraska?) and how much money they have (wealthy people have more choices).

In pre-industrial times, the midday meal was considered the main meal of the day. It was called dinner. People generally worked/went to school close to home and shared this meal with their families. American school children in this period had four basic choices when it came to lunch:

In the second half of the 19th century, cities and factories grew. People began working farther from home. Factories specified lunch periods and some workers did not have enough time for both travel and meal. Cafeterias, a new type of industrial feeding line, were installed in or near factories to provide hot, (sometimes) subsidized nutritious lunches. This benefit attracted employees and improved productivity. It also somewhat ensured workers returned to work on time and kept them aligned with the goals of the temperance movement. Modern public schools, modeled after factories, began exploring similar feeding programs.

American school children were the focus of social scientists, nutrition experts, government researchers, welfare groups, parent/teacher organizations, and ladies' charity leagues. Diet inadequacies were identified and addressed. Parents were informed about the connection between diet and academic achievement. Hot school lunches were sometimes organized and served by these groups. Late 19th century American cookbooks began offering suggestions for healthy school lunches packed at home. Legislation ensued.

The concept of cafeteria school lunch choice did not exist in the early years (1930s-1960s) did not exist, except for maybe peanut butter and jelly. From the 1970s forward, choices continued to grow. Vending machines and corporate foodservice outsourcing were debated, introduced, embraced, rejected, revamped, and reinvented. By the 1990s salad bars, made-to-order deli counters and ethnic specialities presented themselves. Today's school cafeterias face the same mission and challenge their predecessors faced a century ago. How best to provide cost-effective nutritional kid-friendly meals with an ecclectic pantry supplied by outside sources in a short period of time.

Today's school cafeteria choices reflect federal nutritional recommendations, regional culinary preferences, and local district economics. The controversy over what makes a "good school lunch" remains a hot debate.


Colonial American college dining: Princeton
Think college foodservice leaves much to be desired? Exactly what Princeton and
Brown students thought over 200 years ago. Some things never change. Including food fights, clandestine cooking, care packages, and sneaking contraband. Note: legal drinking age did not exist in colonial America; this was imposed in the early 20th century as a result of Prohibition. Prior to government regulation, excessive imbibing was actively discouraged by College officials. Synopsis of USA college-age drinking laws/legal limits here.

Personal notes and delightful observations from Princeton chaps:

"After the Revolution July Fourth became another feast day. There were again oratory and alcohol: 'speaking, firing of cannon, throwing rockets, fireworks, eating and drinking. The day terminated as usual, some were drunken and all were tired.' In 1783 Washington himself was present...At a later date a banquet was given the trustees, and the boys shared in the largesse: 'our dinner was composed of chicken and pigs, vegetables, pies, puddings, lemonade, wine, raisins and figs.' Ordinarily however the food was something else again: 'To live in the way we do is the most provoking thing I ever met with. We eat rye bread, half dough and as black as it possibly can be, old oniony butter and sometimes dry bread, and black coffee for breakfast; a little milk or cyder and bread and sometimes meager chocolate for supper, very indifferent dinner, such as lean, tough, boiled fresh beef with dry potatoes. Thus we may be said to exist, not to live as becomes persons of good extraction. 'Mr. Baldwin [the College steward] does not give us the very best butter now more than he formerly did,' writes the exuberant Willm Smith in February 1773, 'and some of the students to be up with him made his image of Butter and hung it up by the neck in the dining room,' which was evidently cold enough in February to prevent the butter from melting. To ease the pangs caused by this rich diet, the boys held oyster suppers in their own rooms, topped off by a bottle of wine; and one of the misdemeanors most frequently mentioned is the stealing of turkeys from nearby farmers."...The food of course continued atrocious: 'Return from supper after eating very little, the butter for a long time past being intolerable and the bread sour and milk scarcely to be called such.' But sometimes there were pleasant surprises: 'The lads all fearful that something extraordinary was going to happen soon as we had cucumbers for dinner,' or 'Had pies for the first I ever say at dinner today...Chocolate, tea and bread and butter for supper tonight for wonder but not to be continued for it was only because they could not give us mush conveniently.' To help out there were the oyster suppers...pies, wine, coffee or even camomile tea, the cherries stolen from Dr. Witherspoon, preserved quinces, and watermelons in the summer."
---Nassau Hall 1756-1956, Henry Lyttelton Savage [Princeton University:Princeton NJ] 1956 (p. 118-122)

"In the early days of the college meals had been served in a room in the basement, but later a separate building had been constructed and connected with Nassau hall by a covered passage...The students waited at the door until a servant opened it, and then entered and looked for their seats. They were arranged by classes at three long tables and stood at attention until the tutor took his place and said grace. They then sat down on the benches and ate their supper. To many an incoming freshman the supper seemed unusually simple, almost mean, consisting as it did only of bread and butter, with milk. He was soon to learn that breakfast was similar, with bread and butter, and occasionally radishes, served with coffee. At dinner the food, both in quantity and variety, was more in keeping with the appetites of growing boys--ham, veal, beef or some other meat, with potatoes and fresh vegetables in season, for dessert, if any, apple pie or chocolate cake. On festive occasions, of course, the meals were more elaborate. 'Our dinner was composed of chickens and pigs...vegetables, pies, puddings, porter, lemonade, wine, raisins and figs,' wrote William B. Clymer, of the Fourth of July celebration of 1819. The boys did not expect a banquet every day and were satisfied with their usual plain fare so long as it was wholesome and of good quality. But when the steward neglected his work, or tried to gain a few dollars at their expense, the letters to father or mother were full of complaints...The presence of a professor or tutor, while a restraining force, did not necessarily assure good order at meals, and we find a record of one youngster who had a long argument with a friend at breakfast over the propriety of snatching bread and butter before grace was over...Usually restlessness or disapproval of the food or dislike of the tutor was expressed by the scraping of feet on the floor under the table...Although the regulation at first forbade the student 'to make any treat or entertainment' in his chambers or 'have any private meals,' this rule in time was modified, so that the boys were 'indulged to make a dish of tea' after evening prayers. And it was found impossible to prevent them from purchasing a watermelon in season and inviting their friends in for a feast, or from opening a box of delicacies from home, or from stripping a nearby cherry tree. On student relates that he bought some whortleberries from country people who were peddling them, but when he got into a scuffle with a classmate, most of them were crushed in his pocket....It was his regard for the honor of his society that kept many a student from indulging in common breaches of discipline. The boy who hoped to be valedictorian set off no crackers, did not bring strong liquor to his room...and never threw bread in the refectory. His indiscretions were limited to visiting the tavern occasionally...perhaps drinking a bit too much wine at the Fourth of July dinner."
---Princeton 1746-1896, Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker [Princeton University Press:Princeton NJ] 1946 (p. 184-208)

"As for Bacchus and his cult, eighteenth-century records did not indicate that drinking prevailed to any extreme...Occasionally in the 1786 diary occur allusions to the joy of 'eating pies & drinking Wine' in Nassau Hall when Gilbert Snowden, the tutor, was off duty; and once the diarist complains of a headache induced by the porter he had consumed. But the festivities he recorded were usually no more iniquitous than the one that followed an invitation to drink coffee one night in a classmate's room, when 'about 9 sat down to 2 good potts of it & a fine Plate of toast and the worst was that there were too many to divide it among, however [we] would have had pretty near 3 dishes a piece if we had had dishes to drink it from..."
---Princeton, Varnum Lansing Collins [Oxford University Press:New York] 1914 (p. 189)

Residential, dining and social facilities

Brown University
"Shortly after the War of Independence the College of Rhode Island, the future Brown University, listed what it proposed to give its teenage students. Breakfast would be tea or coffee with buttered white bread or toasted and buttered brown bread. An alterntaive was chocolate or milk with white bread without butter. The college's dinners for a week were as follows: Two meals of salt beef and pork, with peas, beans, greens, roots, etc., and puddings. For drink, good small beer and cider. Two meals of fresh meat, roasted, baked, broiled, or fried, with proper sauce or vegetables. One meal of soup and fragments. One meal of boiled fresh meat with proper sauce and broth. One meal of salt or fresh fish, with brown bread. Suppers were of hasty pudding, rice, samp, white bread, or milk porridge, with tea, coffee, or chocolate. Meals, especially dinner, would be varied during the week by the addition of puddings, apple pies, dumplings, or cheese as often 'as may be convenient and suitable.'
---A History of Food and Drink in America, Richard J. Hooker [Bobbs-Merrill:Indianaoplis IN] 1981(p. 67-68)


Laws, regulations & government reports


American public school lunch, 1894
"The first major program had started in some Boston high schools in 1894, in large part due to Ellen Richards and Edward Atkinson. The New England Kitchen ran the program as a 'private enterprise' that paid for itself many times over. Although the lunches never became effective instruments for teaching the New Nutrition the founders had envisaged, by the early twentieth century they were praised for providing nutritionally sound meals and low prices to children who woud not normally have them, and this became the main justification for similar lunch programs in other cities."
---Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the American Diet, Harvey Levenstein [Oxford University Press:New York] 1988 (p. 116)

American school cafeteria lunches: 1900
In the first decades of the 20th century school lunches were served to children attending public schools in many of America's larger cities. Meals were carefully prescribed by nutrition scientists. Menus were developed to ensure each student consumed the number of calories (energy) calculated to maximize his or her learning potential.
British school lunch programs provided successful models for American organizers. Similar public charity feeding programs were established at Ellis Island.

American school cafeteria lunches: 1910-1929
"By 1912, over forty cities had lunch programs in their elementary schools...[1913] The NYAICP [New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor] was to serve 600,000 meals for a year for only one penny a meal. But private agencies could not afford to subsidize the programs on the scale thought necessary, particularly in the face of rising food prices...Various reformers took up the call for municipal support for school lunch programs...In New York City, the board of education would finance only some of the necessary equipment for the program, which after two years served but 35 of the city's 500 schools..."
---Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the American Diet, Harvey Levenstein [Oxford University Press:New York (p. 116-117)

"A...powerful influence of the food habits if American children was the school lunchroom. Up until the twentieth century, most city kids returned from school each day for a home-cooked meal. That began to change as more and more women found work outside the home, leaving their kids to fend for themselves. With no one to feed them, the kids were given two or three pennies to buy lunch from a local pushcart or delicatessen. In 1908, a group of citizens....founded the New York School Lunch Committee, a charity that provided three-penny lunches to undernourished children. In place of pickles and candy--the typical pushcart meal--the committee provided hot soups and stew for two cents a serving, and one-penny treats like rice pudding or baked sweet potato. The school lunch committee lasted through World War I, but in 1920, responsibility for feeding the city's children shifted to the Board of Education. Calls to Americanize the foreign-born revergerated through government offices.....the Board of Education looked to the school lunchroom to Americanize the immigrant palate."
---97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement, Jane Ziegelman [Smithsonian Books/Harper Collins:New York] 2010 (p. 165)

The Americanization agenda
if the school lunches failed to educate the working class in the ideas of New Nutrition, they were much more successful in another direction: 'Americanizing' the immigrant diet, for no concessions to non-American tastes were made. Whether or not they developed a taste for chicken croquettes, salmon loafs, and scalloped dishes, which were the stapels of school lunch programs, thousands of immigrant children were exposed to foods vastly different from what they ate at home...Italians were more resistant to the pressures to Americanize their eating habits than were any other immigrant groups...[the children] were learning an important lesson: it was the food in their homes, not the on the steam tables, which was out of the main stream, and that to enter that stream they would ultimately have to learn to appreciate its food."
---Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the American Diet, Harvey Levenstein [Oxford University Press:New York (p. 119)

[1914]
"Three-Cent School Lunches: what has been done for New York children", The Christian Science Monitor, August 29, 1914 (p. 8)

[1917]
"In many of our large cities and industrial centers the elementary school luncheon has long since passed the experimental stage and is regarded as a valuable part of the school training as well as a safeguard for the health of the child. Very often the pioneer work has been done by women's clubs or philanthropic organizations which have assumed the task of demonstrating to school authorities the practicability and value of such feeding. The expensive machinery of education is wasted when it operates on a mind listless from hunger or befogged by indigestible food. Whether the cause be poverty, ignorance, or carelessness, the child is the sufferer, and the painstaking work of the school lunch supervisors to secure wholesome and adequate noon meals for the school children at a minimum cost not only brings immediate benefit to the children, but exerts a widespread influence upon homes and parents, as the children carry to them reports of these concrete lessons in the science of proper selection, preparation, and hygiene of food. The school luncheon must be simple, easily served and economical. It may consist of a hot dish, with some form of bread, and a choice of about two sweet dishes; milk or cocoa should always be obtainable. A week's menu as actually served by the School Lunch Committee of the Home and School League in Philadelphia is given below:

Weekly menu in school with penny lunches and five-cent noon dinner
Monday: (1) Baked beans and roll, 5 cents (2) Cocoa or milk, 2 cents; crackers or ice cream, 1 cent
Tuesday: (1) Vegetable soup and roll, 5 cents (2) Same choice as Monday
Wednesday: (1) Creamed beef on toast and roll, 5 cents (2) See Monday. Dates 1 cent
Thursday: (1) Macaroni with tomato sauce and roll, 5 cents (2) See Monday. Jam sandwich, 1 cent
Friday: (1) Creamed salmon and roll, 5 cents (1) See Monday
The following passage describes the mechanism of the service in the New York City Schools:

At 11:45 in each of the seventeen schools squads of picked pupils set up the portable tables in preparation for serving the lunch. The children come from their classrooms, form lines, usually in the interior play yards, and as they pass a given point take up a try, spoon, and whatever other utensils are necessary. The line goes by the large containers of soup, which is dispensed in half-pint portionstot the children. The rule has been to have each child purchase first a half-pint bowl of soup, after which he may purchase any of the other items prepared that day. After buying the soup the child passes along the table on which the other foods are displayed, choosing those which appeal to him. Behind these tables the picked pupils, in white gloves and aprons, and, in the case of the girls, caps, hand to the children the desired articles. At the end of the line the associate manager stands to receive as many pennies as there are items of food on each child's tray. The child carries his lunch to one of the tables which have been set for that purpose, where the food is eaten. After finishing the meal, the child takes the tray and oiled dishes to a designated place, where any remaining food is scraped into a pail and the bowls, trays, and utensils are neatly placed in piles ready to be washed. This affords an opportunity for a lesson in practical domestic science...If the noon meal is served at home, it may be somewhat more elaborate, provided the child has time to eat it in a leisurely fashion. When he has to hurry back to school this fact must be taken into account, and no extra tax put on his digestive powers."
---Feeding the Family, Mary Swartz Rose PhD, assistant professor, Dept. of Nutrition, Teachers College, Columbia University [MacMillan:New York] 1917 (p. 154-7)

"Many high school children do not go home for the noon meal. In fact, the custom of providing meals at school began in America with the high school, and most city schools have lunch rooms. Sometimes these are let by contract and there is no skilled supervision of the food supply. But with the spread of the carefully supervised elementary school luncheon attention has been directed to the real needs of the high school youth and the opportunities for education in good eating habits. An interesting attempt to help the pupil to choose wisely is shown in the Menu Bulletin of the Julia Richman High School in New York City:

Julia Richman High School
Lunch Service
Menu Bulletin No. 37

N.B. You require 800 balanced Calories for Lunch. Purchase the items which give you this quantity.

Soup:
Split pea, bread and butter...Calories: 310; Price, 5 cents
Hot dish:
Veal stew with vegetables, bread and butter...Calories: 350; Price, 10 cents
Vegetables:
Lima beans...Calories: 125; Price, 3 cents
Sandwiches:
Date nut on graham bread...Calories: 245; Price, 4 cents
Chopped egg...Calories: 200; Price, 4 cents
Desserts:
Raisin layer cake...Calories: 300; Price, 5 cents
Horton's ice cream...Calories: 200; Price, 5 cents
Bread pudding, chocolate sauce...Calories: 275; Price, 4 cents
Baked apple and cream...Calories: 120; Price, 3 cents
Apple...Calories: 50; Price, 1 cent
Crackers:
Cecilias...Calories: 100; Price, 3 for 1 cent
Fireside peanut jumbles...Calories: 110; Price, 2 for 1 cent
Candy
Sweet milk chocolate, large bars...Calories: 500; Price, 5 cents
Almond bars...Calories: 600; Price, 5 cents
Assorted penny candy...Calories: 100; Price, 1 cent
Beverages
Milk...Calories: 140; Price. 3 cents
Cocoa...Calories: 110; Price, 3 cents
Breads
White or graham, with butter...Calories: 185; Price, 2 cents

The result of the educational work done here is clearly demonstrated in the change of demand for food. The first few days of the service, the candy and pastry tables were the chief points of purchase, more than half of the receipts coming from that source. About 30 bowls of soup were sold and 15 to 20 other hot dishes. Within four weeks from the commencement of the service were selling an average of 80 to 90 bowls of soup and 40 to 60 other hot dishes.

The high school luncheon will usually offer a greater variety of foods than the elementary school meal, but these should always be presented with the fact in mind that the young people are going back to brain work, and heavy dishes are out of place. The daily menu list may well include such dishes as the following:

1. Soup, as tomato, green pea, split pea, white and black bean.
2. Two or three hot dishes, as spaghetti with tomato sauce, mashed potatoes with green peas, baked beans, corn pudding, a stew with vegetables or a hot roast beef sandwich.
3. Salads, as potato, egg, fruit, or green vegetable.
4. Sandwiches, one or two varieties each day.
5. Fruit, as apples, bananas, stewed fruits of various kinds.
6. Milk and cocoa.
7. Plain cake or sweet wafers offered only in combination with milk or other plain food.
8. Ice cream, charlotte russe, simple baked pudding, sweet chocolate."
---Feeding the Family, Mary Swartz Rose PhD, assistant professor, Dept. of Nutrition, Teachers College, Columbia University [MacMillan:New York] 1917 (p. 167-168)

American school lunch 1930s
Driven by a
generation of progress, the US Government expanded the school lunch program during the Great Depression. The logistics of connecting surplus commodities with hungry students required creativity and and committment. Notes below describe school lunches composed of heathy, fresh food supplemented with local contributions. Schools without cafeterias were gifted with hot lunch delivered courtesy of local organizations. School food gardens were encouraged as learning tools as well as fresh outdoor "pantry." Then, as today, schools situated in places with longer growing seasons fared better than northern urban counterparts. Compare the notes below with today's Chefs Move to Schools initiatives.

Where did the food come from?
"The approach of the needy to more adequate diet was being facilitated by the federal government. The center of such activity was the Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation, which, following reorganization in 1935, became more active in melting down agricultural surpluses by purchase and distribution of commodities to relief agencies. This phase of work was continued, and it also engaged in a school lunch distribution program, the subsidizing of milk sales, and the distribuion of food bonuses through local deaers. The work of the Federal Surplus Commodity Corporation in school feeding at national expense was not unprecedented. In England authorities at the time of the Boer War...In the United States the school lunch was started in the supplementary feeding of hungry chidren in the poor sections in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and other large centers. The value of the procedrued was stressed in the post-war period, but the movement spread rather as a warm noon lunch for children who found it inconvenient to go home. When following the depression, the government turned its attention to the farm problem, the public spirited-feeding movement were aided by the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation, and, following 1935, by the Federal Surplus Relief Commodities Corporation, whos food purchases were distributed through state branches of the Works Progress Administration. The foods supplied by the corporation were, of themselves, not sufficient to supply a balanced diet, so various local sponsoring groups supplemented the distributed commodities by foods secured through local contributions. Sponsoring groups were of two types: the legal sponsors, such as departments of welfare and boards of education, and the co-operating sponsors, such as service organizations and individual patrons. Sponsors obtained cash contributions from fairs and community-chest campaigns and contributions in kind through newspaper campaigns and appeals to merchant. Fresh foods were also obtained form school gardens cutivated by children, and in rural areas farmers brought contributions by the truckload for use in local projects."
---The American and His Food, Richard Osborn Cummings [University of Chicago Press:Chicago] 1940(p. 214-215)

Where was school lunch cooked & what recipes were used?
"In smaller places a kitchen was frequently set up in the school itself. In some of the larger cities a central kitchen was established, and W.P.A. drivers rushed caldrons of hot soup and freshly made desserts to schools at lunchtime. Recipes and meals were planned by expert dietitians who frequently used the publications of the Bureau of Home Economics as guides. Lunch almost always meant a hot dish, milk, a fresh fruit or vegetable, and sometimes included soup and dessert. At the close of 1938 forty-five states and the District of Colombia were participating in the program, and during the five years of operation some 130,000,000 meals had been served."
---ibid(p. 215-216)

What were the results?
"Teachers in schools where lunches were served observed that children gained in weight, lost inferiority which they had felt among classmates, and became more alert and interested in school work. A county superintendent in Alabama chlaimed to have been able to tell where luncheon projects were operating merely by looking at attendance records...There were aso indirect benefits of the plan. After lunch short talks on the benefits of fresh vegetables and fruits and milk constituted messages which were carried home to parents who might never have been told 'why it is wise to choose foods properly even with the most limited means.' In 1938 the corporation provided suppies for lunches of an average of 800,000 pupils, and during the school year of 1939-1940 the program was further expanded."
---ibid (p. 216)

Sample recipes:
Menus and Recipes for Lunches at School/US. Dept. of Agriculture/Bureau of Home Economics [1936]

Chefs-move-to-schools
The first chefs-move-to-school program in our nation's capitol happened in 1934. Chef Earl E. Harrington's fed 5,000+ children in 92 districts. First Lady Eleanor Franklin supported and promoted the program. This was back in the day before most schools had lunch rooms. The current
program, spearheaded by Mrs. Obama, puts a modern spin on the original mission.

"Eleven hundred pounds of diced beef, 800 pounds of potatoes, 200 pounds of carrots, 150 pounds of onions and 100 pounds of turnips in one vegetable chowder. That will be the main dish for 5,517 needy children at the lunch to be served today in 92 district schools. The food was prepared throughout Sunday by a staff of 24 persons under the direction of Earl E. Harrington, local restauranteur, who has been in charge of preparing and distributing the school lunches since the program began. Mr. Harrington will continue doing this work until the enitre program is taken over by the Government at a central kitchen. Hard-boiled eggs will be added to the school lunches for the first time tomorrow. A total of 400 dozen eggs from Federal surplus supplies will be prepared an sent out by Mr. Harrington. The eggs will be served two or three times a week. Supplementing today's menu of vegetable chowder will be large quantities of butter, whole wheat bread and fruit, also from Federal surplus supplies and a half pint of milk to eadch child. Five hundred and seventy-five loaves of bread will be sent out each day. On the days when eggs are not served, a piece of cheese or corned beef will be substituted...Although 92 schools will be included the service beginning today, 15 buildings with 1,000 children in need of food have yet to be included. These schools are now being equipped with facilities to keep food warm and serve it. The schools now being served include a number of parochial schools, where 635 children will receive the lunches; in addition to the District schools. While Mr. Harrington is carrying on as chef to the hungry school children, work will go forward in equipping the central kitchen in the old Manual Training School at Wisconson avenue and Q street northwest. In preparation for the opening of the kitchen, Mrs. Katharine McK. Ansley, who was brought here from St. Paul to direct the program, is assembling her staff of workers and making other plans. The workers will be enrolled from the ranks of the CWA employes, and must be passed on by the CWS and health authorities before they can be admitted. Satisfaction over the manner in which Mr. Harrington has handed the program was expressed by Mrs. Ansley after a conference with the restuaranteur last week. Mr. Harrington told the new director he hoped to be able to assist her in inaugurating the new program...'As I have been preparing these meals for 5 cents each, there is very profit in it for me,' Mr. Harrington said, 'but I have grown to love doing it, to know that I am making life easier for many an undernourished child. Even after the entire program is taken over by the Government, I hope to be given an opportunity of rendering some volunteer service.' Mr. Harrington, father of four children, came to Washington from Akron, Ohio, three years ago. His eight trucks make two trips to the schools each day in order to cover the enitre territory and deliver the necessary supplies,. His kitchen and employees are inspected frequently by District health authorities. The menu now being served would undoubtedly please Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt where she to make another trip of inspection, school officials believe. At the time Mrs. Roosevelt made an unexpected tour she was distressed to find scanty meals, devoid of milk and fruit. Her criticism of this discovery led to the Government intervention in the situation and the importunities of Mrs. Ansley to direct the program with Army officials cooperating...Blam for the unsatisfactory meals has been placed with the District Emergency School Relief. Mr. Harrington, in defense of the relieve headquarters, declared that they had short notice and were making arrangements to have more food added to the menus when Mrs. Roosevelt made her unannounced tour. The First Lady's visit followed a formal and planned one conducted by Mrs. Henry Grafton Doyle, of the Board of Education, and other officials. Day by day, however, the menus here have been expanded."
---"Restauranteur Finds Joy in Preparing Food for Children," Washington Post, Feburary 12, 1934 (p. 13)

Harvard college dining notes, 1930s
"One of the big problems of Harvard College authorities is that of satisfying more than 3,000 healthy but widely varied student appetites. Harvard undergraduates, it appears, have very definate likes and dislikes when they sit down to meals in the undergraduate dining halls. For example, they don't care for 'New England boiled dinners' or 'New England fish dinners,' although a large percentage comes from homes in the section where those dishes were made famous and, curiously, they like spinach and eat plenty of it, but never have pie or doughnuts for breakfast. Among the meats, steak ranks first in popularity, with chicken, lamb chops, and roast beef following in that order. A visiting committee of twenty women, mothers of students, is appointed by the Harvard Board of Overseers each year. These women inspect the menus, talk to the students, eat at the dining halls about once a week, and offer suggestions to the management. Menus are so diversified that there is no sense of sameness. Typical menus are:
Breakfast--Sliced banana or preserved peaches; oatmeal, wheat krumbles, corn flakes, post toasties, puffed wheat, shredded wheat biscuits, wheaties, post bran flakes, pep, puffed rice, rice flakes, rice krispies, all bran, scrambled eggs with bacon or boiled eggs; toast, rolls, muffins and griddle cakes, tea, coffee, cocoa, milk or buttermilk.
Luncheon--Hamburger steak with mushroom sauce, poached eggs, saute potatoes, buttered new cabbage; lettuce hearts with French dressing, Cinnamon buns; sliced pineapple, apple pie, cherry cookies; coffee, cocoa, milk, buttermilk; choice of dry cereals, crackers and milk; ice cream or fruit served in place of meat or dessert.
Dinner--Bisque of tomato; grilled lamb chop, sausage and bacon, French fried sweet potatoes, green string beans, Parker House rolls; pineapple and cream cheese salad; fudge spumoni ice fream, assorted cake and coffee."
---"Harvard Palates Provide Problem," New York Times, October 14, 1934 (p. N2)

School lunches, 1940s
"In 1943, with stocks of surplus foods dwindling and transportation snags bottling up many farm products, members of Congress from the farm bloc pushed through an appropriation of fifty million dollars for local school boards to purchase foods that were abundant locally. Meanwhile, the USDA continued to send them items it had purchased to help support prices, such as evaporated milk and canned prunes. In all, almost a third of the nation's schoolchildren--most of them rural--received some food aid. But commoditeies were bought not because they were needed for lunches but because farmers could not sell them at a good price. School districts were inundated with foods they did not want and could not store. Perishable foods rotted en route to schools or arrived unannounced at schools that could not refrigerate them. Finally, in 1944, as a cricitism from consumer groups, home economists, and parents reached a crescendo, and the appropriation was temporarily blocked by urban representatives trying to break the USDAs' grip on the program...the Office of Education...[was] given three million dollars to supervise the actual distribution of the foods and provide a modicum of nutrition education...The USDA allocation for the program was raised to one hundred million dollars."
---Paradox of Plenty: A Social History of Eating in America, Harvey Levenstein [University of California Press:Berkeley] revised edition, 2003 (p. 78-79)

"Because of the increased number of schools serving lunches and the greater percentage of children who are eating at school cafeterias, due in large measure to their mothers being on war jobs, the Office of Price Administration today announced a new plan for making available rationed foods to schools. The system is designed to increase allotments of meat and processed foods. School authorities may apply immediately to their local War Price and Rationing Boards for larger allotments covering the January-February period. Heretofore, the OPA explained, school lunch rooms and cafeterias got their allotments much in the same way as commercial eating places, with the quotas based on the amount of rationed food and the number of person served in December, 1942, and on the gross dollar revenue from food services. Not only did new cafeterias and new customers negate this formula but the Government's school lunch program, which went into effect in January, 1943, made the fross dollar revenue qualificaton no longer representative in the computation of ration points. Under the lunch program the Government pays part of the cost of school meals where such is necessary. Of 240,000 schools in the United States, somewhat more than half serve lunch and 60,000 of these latter are functioning on a Government contract basis. Following conferences with school lunch and nutrition experts of the Food Distribution Administration, the OPA accordingly set up a new system of allowances based on the current number of children who are served... Managers of school cafeterias have been asked to compile a number of operational requirements, such as keeping separate accounts on service of 'refreshments' as distinguished from service of food...A new 'quantity cookery booklet, School Lunch Recipes,' computed on the basis of meals for twelve, twenty-five and fifty, has just been issued by the Bureau of Human Nutrition and Home Economics and is availab;e on request from the United States Department of Agriculture."
---"OPA to Increase School Lunch Food," New York Times, January 18, 1944 (p. 24)

Sample recipes
[1940]
Lunches Using Farm Surpluses
[1943]
School Lunch Recipes
[1946]
School Lunch Recipes for 100
School Lunch Recipes Using Canned Foods, 25-50 servings, National Canners Association, Home Economics Division
[1948]
School Lunch Recipes Using Nonfat Dry Milk/USDA
School Lunch Recipes Using Dried Fruit/USDA
[1949]
School Lunch Recipes for 20 and 50

School cafeteria lunches, 1950s
School boards and administrators struggled with the very real problem of feeding huge numbers of hungry boomer children. Economics, logistics, nutrition and politics played key roles. School officials actively sought more efficient and cheaper ways to feed students. Some opted for corporate outsourcing and
vending machines.

[1950]
"That a youngster have a hot lunch is not nearly so important as that he have a good lunch. This observation by the United States Department of Agricuture is intended to clear up the misconception that 'something hot' is essential for the noon meal. The subject is apropos when 894,500 children are now getting read for the opening of the public schools on Sept. 11. A little better than an eighth of those students will have the assurance of propper midday meals under the National School Lunch program...Others will have lunch at home; high schoolers may eat a concession-owned cafeterias in their schoos. About 167,000 will buy just milk under the program...The so-called "Oslo breakfast' worked out by Norwegian nutritionists for school children, constisted entirely of cold foods. It included ample milk, bread and other sturdy foods, however, and resulted in a marked improvement in the health of the youngsters. As a guide, the department lists the specifications followed in preparing a typical meal of the school lunch program. It consists of the following: Half pint whole milk. Two ounces lean meat, poultry, fish or cheese, or one egg, or a half cup cooked dry beans or peas or four tablespoons peanut butter. Three-fourths cup of vegetable or fruit and one or more portions of bread with two tablespoons butter or fortified margarine. One of the cold lunches that will be served to children in the city's schools this fall consists of a hard-cooked egg, a whole wheat bread and butter sandwich, a sandwich of white bread, butter and marmalade, tomato wedges, ice cream and a half pint of milk. A hot meal includes soya, macaroni and vegetable soup, a sandwich of sliced American cheese with mustard nut butter on whole wheat bread, an orange and a half pint of milk...A glance into lunch boxes children begin toting to school next month will indicate how popular peanut butter has become. Statistics fix per capita consumptino at one and one-third pounds annually, but probably the young fry account for more than their share of this."
---"News of Food: A Good Lunch, Not Necessarily a Hot One, Is Real Need of Nation's School Youth," New York Times, August 28, 1950 ([p. 14)

[1951]
Participation of Negro children in school lunch programs/USDA

[1958]
"The biggest bargain in the family food budget these days of high costs is the lunches the youngsters get in the Los Angeles City schools cafeterias. This is made possible through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's surplus commodities program which provides perishable foodstuffs to eligible schools for a small handling charge. Eligible schools in the program are all public and nonprofit elementary and high schools operating nonprofit school lunch programs. Certain welfare agencies, summer camps and child-care centers also are eligible for the program. During the 1956-57 school year, the city schools ordered and consumed the following aounts of surplus commodities: 459,662 pounds of ground beef and stew meat, 222,646 pounds of loaf cheese, 74,304 pounds of cheddar cheese, 72,996 pounds of pork luncheon meat, 90,000 pounds of lard, 146,500 dozen eggs and 154,000 turkeys. The food arrives at a special surplus properties warehouse in Los Angeles...When the city schools' food services department orders the commodities, the food is take to the Los Angeles Board of Education warehouse. From there is is delivered by truck to the individual schools...The Los Angeles city schools rank second only to the New York City School District in the scope of participation in the plan. An average of 111,000 meals were served daily to city schools' children last year...'More than 27% of our school children buy their lunches every day...Thanks to the plan, a hamburger, containing a good-size portion of Grade A meat, sells for 15 cents in our schools. A grilled cheese sandwich, with butter on both pieces of the bread, costs 10 cents in our cafeterias. An elementary school lunch is only 25 cents. With dessert it is 30 cents.'"
---"U.S. Surplus Food Program Lowers School Lunch Cost," Dick Degnon, Los Angeles Times, January 12, 1958 (p. SF1)

Sample recipes:
[1953]School lunch recipes for main dishes and desserts/USDA
[1959] Fish Recipes for type A school lunches/US Dept. of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service 1 & 2

School cafeteria lunches, 1960s
"In a kitchen of particular concern to 150,000 New York housewives, 75,000 eggs were boiled hard yesterday and 6,000 gallons of mock scotch broth--barley but no beef--were cooked. Every fall, when schools tarts, the kitchen in Long Island City, Queens, suddenly becomes an important part of the life of the city. It is the Board of Education's central kitchen, which prepares the food for the school children who, five days a week, get hot lunches under the board's school lunch program. Every school morning 40 or more trucks back up to the kitchen...and drive off with about 150,000 lunches, which are delivered to 615 schools, both public and non-profit private institutions, such as parochial schools. None of these schools have cafeterias. Lunches are also prepared for 80,000 more elementary school students in school cafeterias. Another 73,000 lunches are prepared daily in junior high schools and 136,000 in high schools. As of next Oct. 31, the estimated total public school population in New York will be 1,053,700. Of that number 437,000 school children particpate in the school lunch program. The lunches are free for those children unable to pay--about half. For those who can pay, prices range from 25 to 40 cents...With these impresssive figures out of the way, it must be said that not all children whose parents would like them to buy lunches are admitted to the school lunch program. This occurs, according to school officials, in schools wehre facilities are limited...The principal may assign priorities in such chases. First priority is given to the most needy children, whos parents are receiving welfare assistance. The lowest priority is given to children who live near their schools, who have someone at home to prepare lunch and who are not needy. Some parents complain however, that in some schools with limited space principal discourage pupils from having lunch in the school even though they bring in their own. This is conceded by school officials, one of whom acknowledged recently taht 'some principals do not permit bag lunches.' Generally this is done for reasons of safety, to prevent overcrowding. And it is done, too, in order not to overburden teachers, who must supervise the lunch period. Nevertheless, the practice is illegal; under the Board of Education's bylaws, 'no pupil shall be excluded from the school building who wished to remain.' A few shcools have no lunch service at all; these are schools that run double sessions, so children either have ended their school day before the lunch period or start after it. In New York City, Federal aid amounts to about 9 cents a lunch in cash and 6 cents in foodstuffs. The cost of the city's lunch program annually is about $15,000,000 for food alone. At the central kitchen work begins before dawn and goes on until 9 A.M.. Men stir 30 huge vats into five-gallon containers, fill the vats with hot water and simmer thousands and thousands of eggs. On another floor 100 white-capped women chop celery and carrots, or spread butter and jam on bread, at the rate of 300 butter or jam sandwiches an hour, each. The basic lunch prepared here is meatess and costs 25 cents to those children who can pay. Of 150,000 such meals, 41,000 remain meatless. Meat such as bologna, luncheon meat and frankfurters is added at the school, which recieves the meat upon request. Some schools do not request it, primarly because of religious dietary laws. In recent years, food familiar to Puerto Rican children, such as chili, beans and rice, had been added to the menu. The lunch program, according to Mr. Allen, its director, 'is and educational tool as well as a physiological need. Children learn to break bread together...Children eating together are obtaining some useful social experience.' As he spoke a white-clad worker behind him opened a large No. 10 can of Government surplus peanut butter; it will be part of the menu in school today."
---"School Lunch Recipe: take 437,000 Hungry and Fill Well," Philip Benjamin, New York Times, September 27, 1963 (p. 31)
[NOTE: Older schools were not built with cafeterias or lunch rooms. Gyms and other large spaces were repurposed to accomdate temporary dining. Think: school custodians triaging rolling folding tables.]

"If 20 million school children had their druthers, the federal school lunch program might serve only hot dogs, hamburgers, steak, fried chicken, desserts, bread and rolls. A survey by the School Lunch Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that American school children's food preferences are becoming more catholic, large in growing accepatance of such ethnic and foreign fare as pizza, lasagna, chili and enchiladas. Otherwise, from Travelers Rest, S.C., to Phoenix, and from Glocester, Mass., to Broken Arrow, Okla., students tend to like the same foods--meats and sweets--and dislike the same foods--vegetables. These four communities are among 50 that tested the popularity of nine recipes selected from student favorites submitted by school systems throughout the nation. Each recipe had to use USDA commodities, contribute to Type A lunch requirements of a protein-rich food, vegetables, and milk, combine well with other menu items and be simple and economical to prepare. After elimination of obvious simple favorites such as hot dogs, hamburgers and fried chicken, the list was narrowed down to two main dishes, three vegetable combinations, three desserts and cornmeal yeast rolls. When those were ranked in popularity, peanut butter cake and caramel peanut butter rolls led with more than 80% of the children, teacher and school lunchroom staffs who took part in the survey. Close behind were country fried steak, cornmeal, cookies and cornmeal yeast rolls. Chinese meat pie, which is a ground meat and potatoes dish, ranked sixth, followed by the vegetable dishes: carrot relish, corn mock-shue and tomato spoon salad. USDA spokesmen said school lunch recipes and ideas come from many sources, including newspapers and other publications, cookbooks the food industry, families and friends of pupils and teachers and experiments with UDA-donated foods. The schol lunch division constantly runs tests of appetizing and nutritious recipes to be addedto the federal program that serves an estimated 20 million pupils a year."
---"Students Rate School Lunches," Jeanne Lesem, Los Angeles Times, September 16, 1968 (p. F10)

School cafeteria lunches, 1970s
"The school lunch program which has been in existence for almost 25 years, is an important pieces of social legislation, yet it still reaches less than half of all U.S. children and an even smaller of children from poor families. The school lunch program was the subject of much discusssion at one of the panels of the White House nutrition conference last December...But Washington can't make sure that every needy child gets help unless state and local governments are interested and willing to led a hand...states and local communities also must contribute theri share. In the past, many cities and towns have not joined the National School Lunch Program. In the long run, it is the local school system, its teachers and citizen itnerest at the grass roots level which gets the program into the schools and make sure it runs smoothly."
---"Lunches at Schools," Frederick J. Stare and Dr., Johanna Dwyer-Harvard University Department of Nutrition, Washington Post, July 26, 1970 (p. F5)

[1977: school lunches lead to obesity?]
"The government-subsidized school lunch served to 25 million American school children may be harmful to their health, the General Accounting Office says. While the standard lunch 'provides a vaulable source of nourishment for some children,' it may lead to obesity in others and is not effective in combating iron deficiency because of the large portions served and a lack of supplemental nutrients such as iron, the GAO, an auditing arm of Congress, said in the report. The program is costing the government more than $2 billion this year. Participating schools must serve a daily meal consisting of one-half pint of milk; two ounces of meat, poultry, fish or equivalent protein source such as peanut butter, beans or cheese; three-fourths of a cup of at least two fruits or vegetables; and one slice of encriched or whole grain bread, or an equivalent...A [Chicago] Tribune investigation of subsidized school lunch programs was printed last February, revealing that the meals generally fell far short of providing minimum nutritional standards, and were higher in fat conent than recommended by nutritionists. The investigation, based on independent laboratory analysis of school lunches, also revealed that some of the meals did not meet the processors' claims for vitamin content. The investigation also found that school children left a large amouint of their lunches uneaten, resulting in the waste of millions of dollars and a further reduction in nutrition. Reporters found that the waste was due partially to the tradiional problem of getting children to eat their stringbeans and to the unappetizing nature of the mass produced lunches. Responding to the GAO study, the Agriculture Department's Food and Nutrition Service, which runs the lunch program, contended that 'ther are no ways of addressign these concerns shot of abandoning nationally setablished meal standards.'"
---"GAO hits school lunch as 'harmful,'" Chicago Tribune, August 10, 1977 (p. C12)
[NOTE: Read the original document:
The National School Lunch Program Is It Working?/GAO.

"The Government is planning major changes in the national school lunch program, which Congressional investigators say encourages waste and could make some children fat...The G.A.O. investigators conceded that they had no definitive proof of their health concerns. But they said tbat while the standard school lunch, which has been served with the aid of Governemnt subsidies for 40 years, provides valuable nourishment for some childern, it also 'may contribute to obesity in others; and is relatively ineffective in improving iron nutriture, the most prevalent deficiency reported for school children...Ms Foreman [Assistant Agriculture Secretary] said that the Agriculture Department had been aware of problems with the lunch progran and intended to make 'a major announcement on the proposed changes' before the end of August."
---"School Lunch Program Facing Major Changes," New York Times, August 11, 1977 (p. 25)

Quantity recipes for type A school lunches [prepared by Nutrition and Technical Services Staff, Food and Nutrition Service; and Consumer and Food Economics Research Division, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; and the National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. Published: Washington [U.S.D.A.; for sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. Govt. Print. Off.] 1971. Description: Revised August 1971. 1 set of cards in case. 14 x 21 cm. In 1988 the title changed to Quantity Recipes for School Food Services.

School cafeteria lunches, 1980s
[1981] Ketchup is a vegetable
Honest attempt to streamline an expensive federal program or political posturing? Some of the recommendations make sense from a nutritional stance (tofu, yogurt). But? That's not what made the news. The controversy, from announcement to retraction, lasted only 15 days. The legacy lives on.

"The federal government, in major new changes for the nation's school-lunch program, wants to call ketchup and pickle relish vegetables, offer tofu as a substitute for meat and serve peanut butter or nuts as main dishes at noon. These and other such redefinitions of federal child nutrition standars have been proposed by the Department of Agriculture as part of the administration's budget-cutting program. The changes, proposed formally last week, would affect more than 27 million children, many of whom now get free or reduced-price meals, in school-lunch and breakfast programs and in the food program in child-care centers. If adopted as proposed by the department, the changes would mean that students will get less food than last year, in addition to having pay more as a result of reduced federal lunch subsidies authorized by Congress. The department's proposals have drawn strong protests from nutrition and agricultural commodiy groups...The prices of lunches are going up-- we think an average of 25 to 30 cents nationally--and now the department is proposing a reduction in the amount of food that can be served. Congress, in reducing child-nutrition spending from about $4.5 billionto $3 billion for fiscal 1982, also directed the Agriculture Department fo find other ways to economize, but stressed that the department should maintian the nuritional value of school lunches. The department was given three months to comply... Under this plan, tofu, a soybean curd, would be permitted as a meat substitute; yogurt could be served instead of meat or milk; cottage cheese could be offered instead of lean meat; peanuts, either whole or in butter form, plus other nut and seeds, could be used instead of meat. In a departure from its traditional two-vegetable requirement for the standard lunch, schools could credit such items as ketchup or pickle relish as one of the vegetables. An order of french fries, for example, smeared with ketchup, would fulfill the two-vegetables fiat....the reduced-sized lunch for secondary school students would contain the equivalent of one-fourth of the meat in a McDonald's 'quarter pounder,' served on half of a roll, with six french fries, nine grapes and part of a glass of milk... Another meal...using the new standard, might contian three-fourths of an egg on one slice of bread, some carrot sticks and a wege of apple, with a partial glass of milk...USDA's proposals quickly stirred concern on Capitol Hill..."
---"Q. When Is Ketchup a Vegetable? A: When Tofu Is Meat," Ward Sinclair, The Washington Post, September 9, 1981 (p. A7)
[NOTE: The meal combinations were not part of the proposed regulations. They were constructed, based on the proposals, by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).]

"Responding to 'adverse public reaction,' President Regan Friday personally canceled Agriculture Department plans to reduce minimum nutrition requirements for food served in federally subsidized school lunch programs under the proposed rules...ketchup... would have counted as a vegetable....'I don't know whether it represents Democratic sabotage or not,' Reagan said. 'This is a rebulation change that was made or advocated simply by department employees that we didn't know about, and I've canceled it. Reagan's decision surprised Agriculture Secretary John R. Block. Upon hearing of it, Block went to the White House to discuss the matter, then issued a prepared statement saying it was actually he who had decided to withdraw the proposed regulations. But the timing did not jibe with Block's version. The President announced the scuttling to a dozen journalists who had been invited to the White House for a lunchoen briefing on his p proposed budget cuts. Block said he himself made the decision after his meeting with Reagan, which did not happen until mid-afternoon. Block said, 'The President agreed the proposed revisions (in the school lunch program) should be reconsidered due to adverse public reaction.' Democrats had siezed upon the controversial proposal as a symbol of the President's budget cutting, and clearly it was offering them an easy political target...Budget Director David A. Stockman on Friday told reporters the proposal had been 'a bureaucratic goof' and disclosed that it would be scrapped and replaced. But a spokesman for the Agriculture Department's Food and Nutrition Service said the proposed regulations had been approved by the Office of Management and Budget, which Stockman heads. A budtet office spokesman replied that it actually had only waived its right to review the proposed regulations so they could be published on an emergency basis in the Federal Register."
---"Reagan Rejects Less-Nutritious School Lunches," George Skelton, Los Angeles Times, September 26, 1981 (p. 1)

[1986]
"Take 150 standardized school lunch recipes. Reduce the amount of salt, fat and sugar in each; make them easier, quicker and more cost efficient to prepare; incorporate as many government commodities as possible, have the recipes fit into U.S. Department of Agriculture meal-pattern requirements and make sure they taste good, too. Such was the challenge for MDR Associates, a Fairfax, Va., constulting firm that is just wrapping up a USDA contract to revamp the school lunch program's cookbook--for the first time in 15 years. To varying degrees, schools across the country have come to rely upon the USDA's recipe cards, a collection of dishes that serve 100, detailing everything from making sandwiches to assembling casseroles. But what they have come to rely upon is now outdated, not only in terms of efficiency, tastes and trends...but in terms of nutrition, particularly in light of USDA's own dietary guideline to moderate the amount of salt, fat, cholesterol and sugar in the diet...The $320,000 contract involved two years of testing and retesting recipes...at Kitchen Privileges, the Alexandra food-production facility that was to become familiar territory for...the five MDR taste tests and Lydia Paltierno, MDR's professional chef. After gathering input from school systems throughout the country, the USDA gave MDR a list of recipes that food-service directors felt needed the most revamping. The majority of the word MDR did was on revising, for use starting in the fall of 1987, the current recipe cards...Only about 10 new recipes were created--including from-scratch versions of fast-food items such as tacos, burritos and nacho cheese sauce.... Other trendy items--such as a pasta salad, stir-fry, quiche and a raw vegetable dip made with yogurt--were added as well. Whole-wheat flour was incorporated into the pizza crust, hamburger buns and dinner rolls. And that recipe for 100 grilled-cheese sandwiches now calls for only 1 1/2 cups of melted butter instead of 3 1/2 cups. The process was a lengthy one...the day's expermintation would yield lunch for 700, dealt with by donating the surplus to the Salvation Army...A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America whos past jobs have included chef at the Watergate Hotel...Patierno had a challenge in translating her skills to institutional- style cooking. For one thing, as a professional chef, Patierno had never worked with some of the USDA commodity foods, such as canned meats and dehydrated onions, and had to deal with the inconsistencies in the saltiness of the cheese or the acidity of the tomato sauce. For another, she had to take shortcuts into consideration, keeping in mind mininmal labor and equipment and the need to keep costs down. Since Patierno worked mostly with the initial development of the recipe and not the quantity cooking, she was most instrumental in adding spices to the dishes to replace the salt...the recipes now include a repertoire of about eight new spices, including cumin, oregano, marjoram, basil and thyme. Lemon juice as also incorporated, as well as white pepper...MDR also had to be creative with the use of commodity foods and limit frequent usage of non-commodity, costly ingredients such as yogurt. When canned beef is used, directions call for removing the fat. Instructions are given to grain the salty water from canned vegetables. The commodity program provides butter...not margarine, and there are always large quanitites of processed cheese, which is substantially higer in sodium than most natural cheeses. And this year, because of the dairy buy-out, there will be an extra 200 million pounds of red meat avialable, some of whch will be given to school systems...In fact, the whole commodity program is 'a sensitive one,'...some food service directors feel that it is extremely beneficial from a financial standpoint, while others feel it's a burden because they are sometimes offered commodities that are not attuned to students' tastes...government commodities are frequently the very foods that government agencies are telling Americans to cut down on... Economics may have also played a part in revising a substantial chunk of desserts, including such itesm as chocolate chip cookies...'desserts are money makers' for schools...Of course, the utimate success of the recipes will rest on the children,when the completed dishes are placed in cafeterias throughout the country."
---"USDA Updates, Revamps School Lunch Recipes," Carol Sugarman, Los Angeles Times, October 16, 1986 (p. N43)

Vending machines in public schools
America's first coin-operated food vending machines were introduced in
1888. Early advertisements promoting the vending machine industry listed schools along with hospitals, factories, office buildings, and transportation terminals as prime locations. None of these ads specify the type of school (college, trade, local public elementary) nor do they specify where the machine was intended for placement. Then, as today, teachers lounges and employee staff areas are generally "off limits" to students.

Where and when were the first vending machines placed in public schools cafeterias for student use? We have no clue. The earliest print references we find for vending machines in public schools targeting student consumption were published in the mid-1950s. These indicate the practice was not uncommon, but do not provide exact statistics. Interestingly enough? Both references reported the fact that dentists opposed vending machines because they promoted tooth decay. They confirm the machines dispensed candy and sweetened drinks.

As time progressed, the controversy surrounding vending machines in public schools grew more complicated. Government regulators, enterprising businessmen, health advocates, labor unions and school boards approached this thorny issue with different agendas.

[1950s]
"Schools at all levels would be a lucrative and controversial location for the [vending] machines. At this point, though, such placements were in their infancy."
---Vending Machines: An American Social History, Kerry Seagrave [McFarland & Company:Jefferson NC] (p. 154)

"On Recommendation of Dr. H. C. Steinberger, a dentist and a member of the Cannelton School Board, the board has ordered candy vending machines removed from the Cannelton High School. He said the sugar in the candy was bad for the teeth."
---"Candy Loses to a Dentist," New York Times, May 8, 1953 (p. 31)

"The Journal of the American Dental Association said today that public schools should remove vending machines that dispense candy and sweetened beverages. 'Schools should practice as well as teach good nutrition,' Dr. William P. Humphrey of Denver, said in an article."
---Dentist Takes Schools to Task," New York Times, June 2, 1956 (p. 10)
[NOTE: This issue of the The Journal of the American Dental Association is not available online. Your librarian can help you obtain a copy of this article.]

[1960s]
"Schools became increasingly important locations for VMs [vending machines] in this period--and increasingly controversial...The vending industry was making strides in 1964 in the $20-billion-a-year school-lunch area, where banks of VMs had replaced hot meals in many high schools and colleges. That year, 107 Southern California schools converted from cafeterias to vending machines. By 1968, Vendo company...estimated there were 750 schools in the vending came around the country, more than 200 of them in California. Still, as one account said, the vending industry did not then 'have a prayer of getting into more than a fraction of the country's 25,000 high schools, which represented the primary market. That was because, explained Business Week, the US government, state governments, most boards of education, and organized food service employees and administrators had put up a 'solid front' to keep vending out. The National School Lunch Act, which offered cash and foodstuff subsidies to schools in return for a non-profit hot lunch program for children, was described as the legal underpinning to the machine opposition. Vendo's approach was to use low-key persuasion--schools could use VMs and still keep the federal government subsidy. Also stressed was the idea that vending was a good supplement, and that partial-use vending without infringing on subsidy programs could be profitable for schools...Under the terms of the program [National School Lunch Act, 1945], schools could have VMs in the building--for snacks and drinks--but most of those dispensers were hidden away in teachers lounges."
---Vending Machines (p. 182-183)

[1970s]
"In 1970, the US Department of Agriculture agreed to amend the national School Lunch Program to allow vending and food-service companies to participate. During 1973 hearing of the US Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, school lunch officials warned that VMs that dispensed 'junk food' threatened to undermine the school lunch program. Criticized was an amendment to the School Lunch Act passed in 1972 that allowed the sale of 'competitive foods' at the same time and place in which federally subsidized school lunches were served. Regulations that would 'result in exploitation of children's nutritional needs by people whose interest is profits' were then being drawn up by the Department of Agriculture to permit normal use of the machines...Agriculture Department officials declared it was 'against our regulations' to have operating VMs in lunch rooms during school hours, but critics claimed VMs in lunch rooms were already in use in some states...In the early 1970s, Jean Farmer went to a PTA meeting one night in Bloomington, Indiana where someone complained about junk food in VMs. Farmer thought about it and went home...she found her child's lunch--untouched. Farmer then began a campaign lasting years."
---Vending Machines (p. 183)

"According to ...an editorial in 'Candy and Snack Industry,' a trade journal, attempts last year to remove 'empty calorie snacks from school vending machines were confined to local jurisdictions. Unable to get the federal government to confron the problem of such foods competing with the school lunch programs, the state of West Virginia, and cities including Bloomington, Ind., Milwaukee, and Washington , D.C. have taken it upon themselves to ban what they call 'junk foods' from school property. Acturally, according tot eh same editorial, it was the confectionary industry that succeecedin keepign the federal government from banning such sales: 'The National Confesctioners Asspciation and the National Candy Wholesalers Association have worked together effectively to prevent anticandy rulings from becoming part of the National School Lunch Act over the years. But now the battleground...is switching or rather expanding to the national scene. An amendment to the Senate Agrictulure Committee's version of the Child Nutirion Act (school feeding programs) would return discretionary powers to the Secretary of Agricutlure to decide what alternative foods would be sold at schools...Individual vendors and owners of soft drink bottling plants have been writing their congressmen saying the legislation would put them out of business. Those who are workign to get the nonnutritious snacks out of the schools agree that children may seek sweets elsewhere if they are not educated about the importance of a nutritionally well-balanced diet. According to Josephine Martin, president of the American School Food Service Assn....'When children are given a choice between a filling food which gives little more than calories which tastes good, and a nutirtionaly adequate meal, it's very hard for a child who has had no nutrition education to choose a nutritionally adequate meal...'One of the reasons children do not eat the food in the school lunch progrma is because of the foods werved in competition with it. We have to get rid of foods which are nonnutirtious.'"
---"A Victory for Vending?" Marian Burros, Washington Post, June 9, 1977 (p. F1)

[1990s]
"Schools remained the most controversial locations for VMs...Senator Patrick J, Leahy...urged the federal government in 1994 to do more to discourage the consumption of soft drinks from VMs on school property. Leahy wanted to include language in the Better Nutrition & Heath For Children Act of 1994 that 'clarified' regulations that gave school officials the authority to ban VM sales of soft drinks and snack items, such as candy bars and chips, during school hours... More common than schools turning to self-operation...were schools signing exclusive deals with one of the major soft drink bottlers...Since schools were in need of money for programs...they were better off signing exclusive deals...The Center for Science in the Public Interest...wanted to ban the sale of soft drinks from VMs in school, arguing that teens already drank too much pop and that schools should try to undermine that, not promote it."
---Vending Machines (p. 216-219)

Can I find a recipe for my favorite school cafeteria lunch?
Boomers remember mimeographed (before xerox) monthly menus with fun facts sent home in bookbags. Many families posted them on the refrigerator with magnets. Then, as today, there were some lunches kids looked forward to & others they'd rather starve than eat.

We are often asked to help recover favorite recipes served in school cafeterias. This is a challenging project because each school district made its own independent choices when it came to food supply, foodservice space/equipment and personnel. The best source for recovering old school menus for a specific place and time are local newspapers. Often they reprinted weekly menus to aid parents who's kids left the menu on the bus. Your local librarian can help you identify the newspaper serving your school. If the paper is not yet available online, she may be able to borrow reels of microfilm for you to research.

Recipes for the foods served in school cafeterias came from a variety of sources. Some were taken verbatim from federal documents published by the US Department of Agriculture. Others were developed by local extension services, home economics teachers, and school chefs/cooks. Some are recoverable; others are not. Some may be recreated in todays kitchens. Those depending upon overstocked government surplus cans, probably not. If you want to recover your favorite school cafeteria recipe, start by contacting the school's current foodservice director and high school media center librarian. Archives (government documents, old menus, photos) are gold. Failing that, County or State documents (yes, this is research!) may provide details on the local food chain.

A survey of home-made American school lunches through time
School lunch box menus and packing tips start claiming pages in American cookbooks at the tail end of the 19th century. This coincided with the new fields of nutrition science and home economics. People began to understand (and act upon) the role nutrition plays in fueling growing minds and bodies. Cook book authors reveal much about themselves when it comes to their notes about school lunch box foods. Domestic scientists are concerned with nutritional balance; popular writers focus more on new ideas and presentation. All authors agree variety is the spice of life and a healthy lunch plays a vital role in academic success. Recipes printed in cookbooks/magazines provide valuable insight to contemporary period lunchbox menus. Of course, they do not tell the whole story.

What do kids really eat for lunch? Whatever suits their fancy. Some kids cling to ritual, others thrive on surprise. Some prefer mom's lunch (foods they know), others delight in cafeteria selections (freedom of choice). Some view lunch as a bartering event (trade-ya!), others are grateful to have anything hot and filling (confirming the importance of tax-supported food programs).

[Colonial America
In Colonial America, the midday meal (called dinner) was the biggest meal of the day. Most families ate this meal at together at home, even if the children attended school. In sum: there was no "packed school lunch." Supper was the evening meal, typically a light repast composed of dinner leftovers.

Then, as today, what people ate depended upon who they were (ethnic/religious/country heritage), where they lived (urban centers? rural farms?) and how much money they had (wealthy have more choices). Menus were generally built around seasons (to maximize freshness); preserves (jams, jellies, meats) supplemented year-round. Most folks did not drink water (poor sanitation systems meant the water was easily contaminated) or fresh fruit was also somewhat suspect (the thought of the day was fruit needed to be cooked to make it digestible).

If your assignment is to recreate Colonial American packed lunch, you have several delicious period-correct choices: Hard boiled eggs, ham (roast beef, turkey, chicken) sandwiches on crusty white or brown bread (mayo & mustard both okay), cornbread, biscuits, muffins or hard crackers with fruit jam/jelly, pickles (sweet gerkins, bread & butter, NOT Kosher dill), fresh vegetables in season, dried fruit (raisins, apples, figs), fresh fruit (in season, oranges okay) or fruit leather, pie slice (apple, peach, cherry, pumpkin), cake (pound, spice, short), gingerbread (cookies or cake okay), cider (apple juice okay substitute), lemonade, or milk. NO peanut butter ("invented" in the 1890s), chocolate pudding, jell-o.

Authentic packaging? Use a little basket or wooden box. Wrap the foods in clean cloth (napkins okay). No paper, plastic. Good luck!

[1830s, Texas]
"We walked morning and evening to school, carrying our dinners in tin pails and milk in a variety of bottles. Some had clear glass, some green glass wine bottles, and some black or junk bottles. A contention having arisen among the boys as to the relative strength of these wares, it was submitted to the test of striking the bottles together, the boys whose bottles were broken admitting defeat which, in some vague way, I thought involved humiliation while the boys whose bottles survived the conflict vaunted their victories. I do not see why it never occurred to us that the finer ware would suffer in the conflict and the coarser prevail, but so it was. Bottles were of vastly more value then than now, and some of the small boys having cried about their loss, brought in the teacher with his switches to umpire the game, and he decided to administer impartial fate. I do not remember the number of strokes, but I remember thinking it unjust that the boys who had lost in the game should suffer as much in the award as those who prided themselves on their stock of infrangible glass. For many years, however, I have coincided with the old teacher's view, and wish that his policy could be extended to parties and nations as well, they being but children of a larger growth."
handbook/online/articles/MM/hvmce.html
"Recollections of Early Schools," M.M. Kenney, Southwestern Historical Quarterly

[1860s-1880s]
What did children bring for school lunch in the 19th century? History books tell us their meals were usually composed of leftovers from the previous day. This means Italian, Irish, Swedish, Jewish and German immigrant schoolchildren likely consumed very different foods for lunch. A century later, ample evidence reveals home-packed lunches still reflected family heritage and economic status. The classic "American melting pot" school lunch of sandwich, fruit, dessert & drink was promoted by the same folks who worked hard to establish school lunch programs.

Possible "melting pot-type" school lunches based on period cookbooks are these:

Ham salad (or just plain ham) on whole wheat
Graham crackers
Fruit (apple, grapes, stawberries)

Chicken breast on a soft roll (egg roll or potato roll)
Deviled eggs
Carrot sticks & celery curls
Ginger snaps or ginger bread

Corn bread & jelly
Beef jerky
Dried cranberries or raisins
Popcorn balls

Cornish pasty (small portable pie filled with meat & vegetables)
Fruit (plums, pears, cherries)
Sugar cookies

Deviled ham (Underwood Company began in 1869) & soda crackers/saltines
Canned fruit (peaches, pears)
Muffin (blueberry, apple, cranberry)


SOURCES:
[1877] Buckeye Cookery, Esther Woods Wilcox (bills of fare by season)
[1884] The Boston Cooking School Cook Book, Mrs. D. A. Lincoln (salad sandwiches)

About 19th century American sandwiches. What to drink? Milk, cocoa, and juice were popular kid's beverages. Lemonade and iced tea are also period correct.

[1892]
School lunches, Science in the Kitchen, Ella Eaton Kellogg

[1905] Some of Margaret's school luncheons

  1. "Two Boston brown bread cream cheese, and nut sandwiches, and two white bread and jam; a little round cake; a pear.
  2. Two chopped ham sandwiches, two with whole wheat bread an peanut-butter; a piece of gingerbread; a peach.
  3. Two whole wheat-bread and chopped egg sandwiches with French dressing; two crackers spread with jam; three thin slices of cold meat, salted; a cup custard; and apple.
  4. Two whole wheat sandwiches spread with chopped celery and French dressing, two of white bread and sardines; three gingersnaps; three figs.
  5. Three sandwiches of white bread filled with cooked oysters, chopped fine, one of whole wheat with orange marmelade; a few pieces of celery, salted, a spice cake; a handful of nuts.
  6. Four sandwiches, two of minced chicken moistened with cream, two of whole wheat and chopped olives; a little jar of apple-sauce; gingerbread.
  7. Two date sandwiches, two of chopped cold meat; sugar cookies; three olives; and orange.
  8. Two fig sandwiches, two whole wheat with chopped celery and French dressing; a devilled egg; a little scalloped cake; an apple.
  9. Three lettuce sandwiches, one with brown sugar and butter; three tiny sweet pickles; ginger cookies; fresh plums."
---A Little Cook-Book for a Little Girl, Caroline French Benton [Dana Estes & Company:Boston] 1905 (p. 168-9)

[1915] Menu making for the luncheon box
"A luncheon box may be made a source of pleasure to the school child or everyday worker. To bring this about, the foods must be varied on successive days. It is not necessary that each luncheon consist of various foods. Indeed, many kinds of food or foods in great quantity are not desirable for a child who sits quietly at study much of the day...It is both possible and necessary, however,--if the luncheon box is not to become monotonous--to have different foods for each day of the week. As in any meal, all of the foodstuffs should be represented in the food of a luncheon box.

"Foods for the luncheon box. --(1) Sandwiches.--Bread is the basis of almost all box lunches. Since sandwiches furnish the most convenient way of carrying foods that are to be eaten with bread, they invariable form a part of every luncheon...Variety may be had by serving bread sometimes in the form of muffins or rolls. The slices of bread may be cut thick or thin to suit the appetite of the eater. It is often desirable to leave the crusts on the bread...If sandwiches are prepared some time before they are served, they can be kept moist by wrapping in a dry towel, covered with a towel wrung out of hot water. The fillings for sandwiches offer many variations. They may be divided into two classes, seasoned and sweet. Seasoned fillings may include: meat, eggs, cheese, vegetables. If meat is used, it may be cut in slices, or chopped and mixed with a sauce...Either Salad Dressing or White Sauce may be combined with meat...Sweet fillings for sandwiches include: preserved or dried fruits, bananas, nuts. Sandwiches made with sweet fillings are most popular among children. Some of them make good substitutes for cake, and are much more easily digested...

"Relishes.--celery, olives, and radishes serve as relishes for the luncheon box. Celery and olives (especially those stufed with pimentos or nuts) are pleasing as a sandwich filling...Desserts.--Cake is a common constitutent of the luncheon box. Not all cakes, however, are suitable for luncheons. For children, only plainer cakes, i.e. those containing little fat, should be used. Plain cake and cookies, sponge cake, lady fingers, and gingerbread (if not too highly spiced) are also desirable for the school luncheon...Most fresh fruits can be easily packed in the luncheon box. As has been mentioned, grapes, the small fruits such as strawberries and raspberries, sliced pineapple, or fruit sauces may be carried in jelly glasses...If a child is permitted to have sweets, a little candy may be placed in the luncheon box; it is better for a child to have candy at the end of a luncheon than after school>"
---A Text-Book of Cooking, Carlotta C. Greer [Allyn and Bacon:Boston] 1915 (p. 328)

[1922] Menu for the school lunch box

1. Sandwiches: which for the best staple, made of stale bread and filled with finely-chopeed boiled eggs well but mildly seasoned; a nut paste, as peanut butter softened with milk or cream' a dried fruit paste, made of chopped dates or figs. These knds are all suitable for the younger children; for the older ones, chopped meat, cheese, jellies, and jams are also desirable. 2. Fruit: which is appetizing and carries well. The varieties mentioned for breakfast...are suitable, also cooked fruit if it can be carried, as applesauce, stewed raisins, pears, etc. Tomatoes may take the place of other fruit when liked. 3. A sweet: as baked custard, plain cookies, sponge cake. 4. Milk orfruit juice to drink if it can be carried. For older children, stuffed eggs mildly seasoned, nuts, sweet chocolate, baked beans, crusty rolls filled with potato or other simple salad, help to give variety."
---What Shall We Have to Eat?, Jennie Ellis Burdick [University Society:New York] 1922 (p. 50)
[NOTE: Stale bread not a punishment in this context. It is drier and more sturdy, therefore a better choice than fresh bread for preparing sandwiches (with moist filling) the night before.]

[1924] The school lunch box
"The proportion of under-nourishment among both city and country school children has been so appallingly great that in many instances it has been necessary to establish a school luncheon. With the city child, the under-nourishment can often be traced to lack of an adequate breakfast as well as an unbalanced luncheon brought from home, containing an undue amount of starch and sugar, little or no protein, and but few vitamin foods.

"In certain schools the difficulty has been overcome by providing a hot noon luncheon, which is sold to the children a cost. In other cases, where this is not practicable, milk is sold to the children as a small sum per half pint bottle. The results in both instances were immediately beneficial. The children gaining in weight, in improved color, and eventually in keener intelligence. In one city, it has been found that the average child completes the eight customary years of school twenty-five percent, sooner than is usually done.

"It would seem, however, a reflection on the intelligence of American Motherhood when the introduction of municipal and even civic cooking is necessary for the progress-physical and mental-of our children. Certainly, most city mothers can provide three balanced meals a day for their children, no matter if the income is small, for there are always foods which may be chosen that, at the same time, are inexpensive and sufficently nutritious. The country mother, whose child attends a distant school and cannot come home to luncheon or dinner at noon, can give her child a balanced morning and evening meal, and can provide a balanced noon meal which be can easily carried in the school lunch box or basket. The container itself should be attractive and of such nature that it can be easily and thoroughly cleaned and aired. Plenty of waxed paper will be needed in packing the contents; paper napkins should be provided and a hot-cold bottle should be procured, to make possible the carrying of various liquid foods.

"The menus should be varied, possessing the element of surprise. Plenty of whole-grain breads should be used in the making of sandwiches; fresh fruit should be provided and a goodly number of the protectives should be included.

School Lunch-Box Menus
No. 1.
Peanut butter and entire-wheat bread sandwiches raisin gingerbread, an apple
milk (hot-cold bottle)

No. 2.
Creamed chicken, ham, or veal and entire-wheat bread sandwiches
jelly and white bread sandwiches
a hard cooked egg, sponge cake, a pear
lemonade (hot-cold bottle)

"The sandwich is undoubtedly the easiest way to combine a variety of foods for the school luncheon. For this reason, sandwiches of some sort are usually included...Remember that the sandwich acts in the menu as a starch because of the bread; a fat because of the butter; a protective because of the butter; a mineral, when a whole-grain bread is used; the rest of it is made up by the filling, which may be of protein nature, as meat, cheese, nuts, or egg, or a sweet, as jelly, jam, fruit, butter, etc. In selecting sandwiches, choose those that will balance the menu; remember that as much filling, proportionately, should be provided as the child would eat of that particular food were it served to him at home upon a plate. The bread should be cut thin as otherwise he will have too much starch. Sometimes a custard baked in a jelly glass, a cornstarch pudding, bread pudding, fruit Betty, or gelatine--carried in a jelly glass--may be provided, or these foods may be put up in paper jelly cups, which may be discarded after the food is eaten."
---Mrs. Allen on Cooking, Menus, Service, Ida C. Bailey Allen [Doubleday, Doran & Company:Garden City NY] 1924 (p. 44-6)

[1926] Children's school lunches
"Brown bread sandwiches, jelly sandwiches, fruit-nut sandwiches, prune and peanut sandwiches, lettuce sandwiches, celery sandwiches, cream cheese sandwiches, stuffed dates with peanut butter, deviled eggs, date sandwiches, peanut butter sandwiches, tomato sandwiches, egg sandwiches, turkey or chicken sandwiches."
---Every Woman's Cook Book, Mrs. Chas. F. Moritz [Cupples & Leon:New York] 1926 (p. 690)

[1927] School Lunches and Picnic Baskets
"Lunch boxes go picnicking in the summer and return to the school in the autumn. School lunches and picnic meals have much in common, as they must both lend themselves to easy packing and both should hold pleasant surprises for the lunchers. School lunches are closely associated with child health. Uninviting paper-bag lunches, prepared wtihout much thought for the interest of which a variety of food brings to children, should be a thing of the past. An attractive box and paraffin paper for wrapping take the place of paper bags, while a vacuum bottle for carrying milk, hot cocoa or soup is most useful. Fortunately, many schools now served good well-balanced hot lunches and mothers of the community should support all such undertakings through every possible cooperation with the school . These lunches may or may not be supplemented by a box lunch from home. Sandwiches are the great staple for the lunch-box and Graham or whole wheat bread should be used freely. Many delicious fillings can be evolved from such foods as cheese, peanut-butter, jam, raisin, lettuce, dates, crisp celery, figs and chopped nuts, shredded cabbage, sliced tomatoes, hard cooked eggs and cold sliced or minced meat. These can be made into "spreads" with some mild salad dressing or a little cream when suitable to the mixture. Oranges, apples, pears and other fruit and whole tomatoes in paraffin paper carry well. Glass and china individual baking dishes and paper cases make possible the baked custard or pudding, the plain cake or gingerbread and small molds of pressed jellied meat, in a wy that pleases the young luncher. All lunches should of course consider the age of the luncher. Here are some suggestions for the lunch box:

Lunch-box menus for the elementary school
Egg and celery sandwiches, little sponge cakes, dates, milk.
Chicken and tomato sandwiches, gingerbread, milk, apple.
Graham crackers with peanut butter, baked cup custard, apple, milk.
Egg and lettuce sandwiches, caramel cup custard, milk.

Lunch-box menus for the high school
Cold sliced chicken, cleery, graham bread and butter sandwiches, date blanc-mange in cup, plain cookies.
Tomato soup, slice of beef loaf, lettuce sandwiches, caramel cup custard.
Nut and cheese sandwiches, tapioca cream, celery, raisin cake.
Salmon salad, bread and butter, grapes, milk, cookies."

---Good Housekeeping's Book of Good Meals [Good Housekeeping:New York] 1927 (p. 228-9)

[1933] School lunches

---Pictorial Review Standard Cook Book, [Pictorial Review Company:New York] 1933 (p. 409-410)

[1936] Box Lunches that intrigue both eye and appetite
"With only a few days left before your young hopefuls go off to school again, I can see all you mothers, from Maine to California, getting down the lunch boxes you put away with such relief in June. And when I read the letters that come to the Institute asking for help in planning box lunches for grown-ups of the famly who carry lunch to work each day, I realize how many of you never get that summer breathing spell. Yours is a year-round problem, and I am sure you often feel as if you had run out of ideas when it comes to thinking up something new for those lunches. What to put in these boxes, that's always the question! First, last, and always, you wish to make the lunch suitable, and you knwo well that a few snacks gleaned from yesterday's dinner are not a meal for any one, young or old, who puts in a good day's work. Each meal should provide its share of calories, vitamins, and mineral salts. Sometiems it is a question, too, of coaxing tired appetites, especially for indoor desk workers. Food, as you know, gives them the mental lift they need and builds resistance to colds and other ills...In planning box lunches, I always keep the evening meal in mind. As the children's supper is usually a lighter meal than the family dinner, I plan a farily hearty noon lunch for them, with a nourishing soup, or meat or eggs in the sandwich mixture. Something raw and fresh like a tomato, or shredded cabbage and carrots, rounds out the day's needs...If your family is anything like mine, they will be brutally frank in letting you know what they like and what they don't. Let these criticisms be a warning to you and profit by them. It's so easy to be smug and assume that what we ourselves want the rest of the world ought to like top...I'm not going to try to persuade you that packing lunches is just fun...But I do say that it can be made an interesting job if we approach it in a spirit of adventure...In box lunches particularly it's the sameness that gets you down, whether you eat them or pack them. Don't waste time lamenting that Mother Nature doesn't produce a brand-new foodstuff every day. Sit back and consider how shortsighted you've been in the numberless things you've overlooked...Just because there's a cafeteria in the school is no reason for dropping all lunch responsibility. Any mother who hears that Johnny is turning up his nose at the soup or cocoa can be pretty sure that he's leaving most of it in the cup. It may really be poor, or only unattractively served, but why not see about it?...

suggested lunch box menus
Cold lamb and lettuce sandwich, currant jelly sandwich, carrot sticks, celery, orange layer cake, milk

Mixed vegetable salad (in container), pimiento cheese sandwiches, gingerbread, banana, milk

Vegetable chowder, crackers (canned vegetable soup with milk), peanut butter and marmalade sandwiches, packaged cookies, pear

Cream of celery soup, bacon and egg salad sandwiches on whole wheat bread, tomato, oatmeal cookies."
---Good Housekeeping, September 1936 (p. 84-5)

[1940] School lunch suggestions

    (Milk appears in some form in each lunch)
  1. Cream of spinach soup (in vacuum container), crackers, raisin and nut bread and butter sandwiches, apple sauce.
  2. Cream of tomato soup (in vacuum container), ground meat sandwiches, sliced fruit, milk chocolate.
  3. Cream cheese sandwiches, celery, tomatoes and rice (in vacuum container), custard with jelly and graham crackers.
  4. Boston brown bread sandwiches with cottage cheese filling, cocoa (in vacuum container), apple sauce, graham or oatmeal crackers."
---American Woman's Cook Book, Ruth Berolzheimer editor, Culinary Arts Institute [Consolidated Book Publisher:Chicago] 1940 (p. 61)

[1940] Suggested School Lunch Box Menus

Egg-olive sandwich, cheddar corn muffin, tomato, baked apple, milk.

Chicken leg, watermelon pickle, whole wheat bread and butter, cheese-onion sandwich, fruit salad, cooky, cocoa.

Hot consomme, cheese crackers, salami sandwich, carrot straws, fruit drops, milk (school)

Meat loaf sandwich, lettuce wedge, peanut butter sandwich, dill pickle, meringue coconut tart, milk.

Potato salad, hard-cooked egg, ham sandwich, jelly sandwich, celery, chocolate cake, lemonade.

Cream of pea soup, crackers, egg-bacon sandwich, spiced pears, brownies, milk."
---Young America's Cook Book, Home Institute of the New York Herald Tribune [Charles Scribner's Sons:New York] 1940 (p. 222)

[1944] Pointers on packing lunch box meals
"It's day to day sameness in his lunch box that's apt to get a luncher down. So, if you would keep your...school children always eager for the lunches you pack, put these few good pointers into practice...Be sure to choose foods which the luncher can handle easily and and eat quickly--particularly if his rest period is short...Because sandwiches are so often the mainstay in the lunch box, coax tired appetites by varying the bread you use...Be generous with sandwich fillings, then the sandwiches will be far more tempting...Avoid putting lettuce into sandwiches--it may become limp and unappetizing...Keep a supply of canned meats on hand for lunch box use. Any leftover can be worked into the family meals...Such hot hearty dishes as baked beans, chili con carne, beef or lamb stew...may be carried in the vacuum bottle, especially if it is a wide mouthed one. Something hot in the lunch box is always welcome...a few crunchy, raw vegetables...are delicious for the lunch box."

School lunch box menus

"I
Cream of tomato soup, crackers
raw minced carrot and cabbage sandwich (add a little mayonnaise)
deviled eggs, soft molasses cookies, apple

II
Vegetable chowder (vacuum bottle), crackers (canned vegetable soup with milk)
peanut butter and orange marmelade sandwiches
celery, packaged cookies, pear

III
Cream of celery soup (vacuum bottle)
minced bacon and egg sandwiches on whole-wheat bread
tomato, crisp oatmeal wafers

IV
Cold sliced lamb and lettuce sandwich, current jelly sandwich
raw carrot sticks, celery
layer cake with orange frosting, milk (vacuum bottle)

V
Salad of mixed vegetables (in container)
pimiento cheese sandwiches
hot water gingerbread, banana, milk (vacuum bottle)

VI
Peanut butter and minced raw carrot sandwich
whole-wheat bread and apple butter sandwich, celery hearts
baked cup custard, sponge cake, cocoa (vacuum bottle)"


---The Good Housekeeping Cook Book, completely revised edition [Farrar & Rinehart:New York] 1944 (p. 846-7)

[1947] School Lunches
"If you have a lunch room in your school, practice selecting combinations of foods that are appetizing, inexpensive, and nourishing. If you take lunch from home, it should be appetizing and nourishing--not all jam sandwiches and cake. A well balanced school lunch or picnic lunch includes at least one thing chosen from the following:

Bread: brown, date, graham, nut, oatmeal, raisin, rye, white, or whole wheat.
Butter or butter substitute: at least on one slice of each sandwich.
Sandwich fillings: chopped eggs, cheese, peanut butter or other nuts ground to a paste; meat, sliced or chopped; jelly or marmalade; dried fruit paste made of chopped dates, figs, or raisins; fish. Each sandwich should be wrapped separately in waxed paper.
Fruit: apples, grapes, oranges, peaches, pears, plums, bananas, tomatoes. Stewed fruit in small jars with tight-fitting covers may be carried safely.
Sweets: cookies, gingerbread, cake, candy.
Beverage: milk, a hot drink, or fruit juice. These may be carried in a thermos bottle or tightly covered container.

Pack a lunch neatly with the heaviest articles at the bottom. Include two napkins--one to be used as a tablecloth or lap cover."
---Girl Scout Handbook: Intermediate Program, Girl Scouts of the United States of America [New York] 1947 (p. 165-6)

[1955] Advice for making school lunches at home:
"The same food for lunch day after day will meak anyone's appetite lag, particularly if he must take his lunch with him to school or work. Here's how to keep him always eager...Plan ahead--not just for tomorrow but for several days if you can. Think first of what your lunch toter should have and would like to find in his lunch box, bag, or brief case. For the sake of his good health, see that each lunch box includes 1. Meat, eggs, poultry, cheese or fish in sandwiches, salad, or main dish. 2. Vegetables-- at least one--in sandwiches, salad, or main dish, or as raw relish. 3. Fruit--at least one--raw, cooked, frozen, or canned, as is or in salad or dessert. 4. Breads--varied from day to day. 5. Milk--to fill out the day's quota--as is, as a milk drink, in soup or dessert, etc....Keep a list of box-lunch menus so you can rotate them...Stock up on paper napkins, waxed paper, aluminum foil, saran, sandwich bags, paper or plastic containers, spoons, forks, etc. Maybe a new bag or lunch box would boost the luncher's morale. Today's jaunty bags--big enough to hold both books and lunch--also boast a vacuum bottle in a hideaway compartment. But one of the new widemouthed and/or regular vacuum bottles. They make it safe to pack soups, salads, baked beans, beverages, etc. Keep the box lunch in mind when planning dinner the night before. Oftentimes you can prepare enough soup, main dish, bread, or dessert to take care of tomorrow's lunch. Speed lunch-box packaing by doing all you can while cleaning up dinner the night before. 1. Unpack, wash, and scald lunch box and vacuum bottle. Dry thoroughly. Let lunch box air. 2. Wash and refrigerate raw vegetables, salad greens, and fruits. 3. Make up, wrap, and refrigerate or freeze sandwiches the night before. The pack into lunch box the last possible mment-- especially if lunch box cannot be refrigerated. 4. Plan servings as generous as those at home."
---Good Housekeeping Cook Book, Dorothy B. Marsh [Good Housekeeping:New York] 1955 (p. 580)

Twelve Lunches That Go Places (to school or business)
"Split-Pea Soup (in vacuum bottle), Crisp Crackers, Smoked-Tongue Sandwiches, Cabbage Wedge to Dunk French Dressing, Whole Orange, Brownies.

Two-Tone Sandwiches (white and rye bread), Cubes of Susan's Meat Loaf...on Wooden Picks (in vacuum bottle), Celery, Pickles, No-Bake Cookie Balls.

Fried-Egg-and-Thin-Onion Sandwiches, Peas-Cheese-and-Chopped-Pickle Salad (in vacuum bottle), Buttered Hard Rolls, Individual Deep-Dish Plum Pie.

Cream-of-Chicken Soup (in vacuum bottle), Egg-Salad Sandwiches, Whole Tomato, Seasoned Salt, Grapefruit Salad, Cracked Walnuts.

Hot Tomato Cocktail (in vacuum bottle), Sandwiches of Bologna Slices Spread with Chive Cottage Cheese, Bread-and-Butter Sandwiches, Jim's Applesauce Cake, Tangerine.

Sandwiches of Nut Bread, Cream Cheese, and Dates, Nut-Bread-and-Butter Sandwiches, Deviled Eggs Rolled in Lettuce Leaf, Orange Sections to Dunk in Cinnamon Sugar, Cocoa (in vacuum bottle).

Pumpernickel-and-Butter Sandwiches, Dried-Beef Rolls Filled with Seasoned Cream Cheese, Raw Cauliflowerets, Salt, Buttery Baked Pears or Canned Pears, Crisp Cookies, Milk (in vacuum bottle).

Tuna-and-Vegetable Salad (in vacuum bottle), Brown-Bread-and-Butter Sandwiches, Apple-Pie Wedge, Cubes of Cheese.

Cheese Sandwiches on Rye (grated cheese, chili sauce, and deviled ham), Lettuce Rolls Filled with Potato Salad (in vacuum bottle), Raisin-Stuffed Baked Apple, Sweet Roll or Cookies.

Breadless Sandwiches with Pickle (meat-loaf slices with potato-salad filling), Bread-Butter-and-Onion Sandwiches, Pineapple Chunks Strung on Toothpicks, Sugared Doughnut, Milk (in vacuum bottle).

Sandwiches of Chopped Egg, Olives, and Grated Carrot, Cubes of Cheese on Colored Wooden Picks, Buttered Gingerbread Slices, Sandwich Style, Paper Cup of Applesauce, Mik (in vacuum bottle).

Hot Tomato Juice (in vacuum bottle), Diced-Cheese-and-Vegetable Salad, Corned-Beef Sandwich (use canned meat), Bunch of Grapes, Ginger Cookies."
---ibid (p. 582)

[1963] Box lunches made by mom
"Chili con carne (in vacuum bottle), buttered corn-bread square (from a mix), celery sticks, olives, cherry tomatoes, packet of dried fig, milk.

"Deviled-Egg sandwich, small tomato, salt, brownie, packet of dried apricots and prunes, strawberry milk (from a mix)

Peanut-butter n' bacon sandwich, celery hearts, small box of raisins, gingerbread (from a mix, cut into fancy shapes with a cookie cutter), chocolate milk."
---McCalls Cook Book, McCalls [Random House:New York] 1963 (p. 710-1)

[1964] School Box Salad Lunch
Tuna Salad in a jar or Tuna Boats
Potato Salad
Celery Sticks
Crackers
Apple or orange
Muffin or Peanut Butter Cookies
Milk."
---Barbie's Easy-As-Pie Cookbook, Cynthia Lawrence [Random House:New York] 1964 (p. 102)

[1973] Pack-and-Carry Sandwiches
"Nine times out of ten the mainstay of a lunch box or picnic is sandwiches. So don't let yours be humdrum. Vary them from day to day with new fillings and new breads. It's an easy matter to keep hearty sandwiches on hand in the freezer.

Make it meat or poultry
Add salad dressing, in desired and seasonings to one of these meat combinations:
1. Sliced bologna, coleslaw
2. Chopped chicken or turkey, apple, and celery
3. Chopped chicken, walnuts, and olives"
---Good Housekeeping Cookbook, Dorothy B. Marsh editor [Good Housekeeping:New York] 1973 (p. 521)

WRAP IT UP!
...lunch boxes, hot-cold bottles, waxed paper & foil

19th century school lunches were generally packed in cardboard boxes (hence the term "box lunch") or lightweight tin containers. Examples of early American lunch containers may be found in 300 Years of Kitchen Collectibles, Linda Campbell Franklin, 5th edition (p. 479-482).
EBay is an excellent source for pictures of vintage American children's lunchboxes, 1940s-1980s. Search keyword: lunchbox. Paper bags debuted at the end of the 19th century.

Taking America to Lunch, Smithsonian Institution's lunch box exhibit

Waxed paper was used to wrap sandwiches and other items from the early 20th century onwards. Aluminum foil and sandwich-sized plastic bags hit the consumer markets after World War II.

Hot-cold bottles (Thermos!) debuted at the beginning of the 20th century. According to our cookbooks, these units were quickly embraced by middle-class lunchmakers. They were also popular for picnics and other outdoor events.

[1915] The luncheon box
"The luncheon box most commonly used is of pasteboard or tin. Both these materials have advantages and disadvantages. Bread and cake are prevented from drying out when placed in a tightly covered tin box. On the other hand, food odors are retained and one pronounced odor may permeate all of the foods. But since dry bread is unpalatable, the tin box is considered more satisfactory. It should be kept clean and free from odors, should be emptied of its contents every day, washed (scalded often), and allowed to remain open all night. The collapsible box is the most convenient. For most lunches, a teaspoon, jelly glass, and in some cases a drinking cup are all the "dishes" needed. The jelly glass may serve for many purposes. Cup custard may be steamed or baked in it, or it makes an admirable mold for an individual steam pudding. Small fruits and fruit sauces may also be carried in jelly glasses.

"Packing the luncheon.--Neatness is an essential in an inviting luncheon box. All foods should be wrapped separately in paraffin paper, and placed neatly in the box. Since some foods crush readily, it is not always possible to placed the foods to be eaten first on top, but it is desirable to arrange the foods so that not all of them will have to be removed before beginning to eat the luncheon. The paper napkin should always be placed on top. It is perhaps unnessary to say that foods should not come in diret contact with newspapers or any printed matter."
---A Text-Book of Cooking, Carlotta C. Greer [Allyn and Bacon:Boston] 1915 (p. 328, 330)

[1936]
"And last, but not least, a thought to the box itself and its paper accessories. Some manufactures of vacuum bottles which we have tested and approved also make luncheon kits. They are both good-looking and well designed. With brightly colored vacuum bottles held firmly by wire clasps, with durable handles and secure locks, these kits are a joy to pack. Wax or parchement papers or sandwich bags made of transparent cellulose sheeting which we have tested and approved we know are strong and pliable and can be depended upon to keep sandwiches fresh. Approved baking cups aid in preventing the cake in the lunch box from drying and crumbling. Glass jars may be used for salads...The covered containers of water-tight cardboard, available at many stores...are lighter and can be discarded after use."
---Good Housekeeping, September 1936 (p. 163-4)

[1940]
"Packing the lunch. All food not in containers should be wrapped separately in waxed paper before being placed in the box. The neatly wrapped articles should be placed, so far as possible, in the order in which the food will be eaten, so that those found first may be eaten first without disturbing the remainder. The heaviest foods should, however, be placed at the bottom...The Lunch Box. Select a box that can be kept clean. Lunch boxes should be washed, scalded and aired daily. Those made of lightweight metal are best. Many attractive boxes are now made with a vacuum bottle which fits in the box. These are highly desirable. A lunch box should not be air-tight, as a circulation of air prevents the mingling of odors. All food should be prodected from dirt by wrapping. Accessories--A small vacuum container of cup-like shape for hot foods, a screw-top container for liquid or semi-solid food, plenty of waxed paper, and paper napkins are essential lunch box accessories. Without the hot dish--In many places the school, the Parent-Teacher Association or some woman's club provides milk and/or prepares one hot lunch at school to be sold to children for a few cents."
---American Woman's Cook Book, Ruth Berolzheimer editor and revisor [Culinary Arts Institute [Consolidated Book Publisher:Chicago:Chicago] 1940 (p. 63)

[1944]
"4. Lighten the work of packing the lunch box in busy early morning hours by doing as much as possible while clearing up dinner the night before...Wash out lunch box and vacuum bottle thoroughly every night, and air overnight...Check up and make sure you have the necessary waxed paper, paper napkins, paper containers with lids, paper "hot drink" cups, paper forks and spoons, etc., at hand ready for morning use... 17. In packing the lunch box, wrap sandwiches individually in waxed paper. Wrap raw vegetables, pickles, fruits, cake, cookies, and pies, etc., in waxed paper too. They keep better.
18. Pack salad in paper containers with lids, or in covered jelly or mayonnaise jars.
19. Desserts such as baked custard, bread pudding, and fruit gelatin may be packed in the custard dups in which they were baked or molded. Or as with such desserts as rice, tapioca or Indian pudding, covered paper containers may be used.
20. Have tiny salt and pepper cellars for the lunch box--sometimes they come made of cardboard."
---The Good Housekeeping Cook Book, completely resvised edition [Farrar & Rinehart:New York] 1944 (p. 846-7)

British school cafeteria lunch menus: 1912-1913

"Many twentieth century British children had their first experience of public eating through the medium of school meals provided by local authorities...They were considered necessary for the welfare of the schoolchildren, allowing them to concentrate on lessons rather than being hungry...It was during the Second World War that nutritionists reached a consensus on the proportion of nutrients to be provided by school meals. Before this time, the service was rather patchy. After the war it was very difficult for children to opt out unless they lived close enough to school to go home for dinner...The statutory provision of school meals originated in the 1906 (Provision of Meals) Education Act. This stated that local authorities had a duty to provide free meals to those children whose education mught otherwise suffer through hunger, and permitted local authorities to add up to a halfpenny in the pound to rates to pay for the meals. This Act was a direct result of the Boer War...For some years Bradford City Council had been concerned about poor nutrition amongst children and was investigating the problem when the 1906 Act was passed. Since 1890 some provision of free school meals had been made for needy children in Bradford by a charity called the Cinderella Club. In 1903-4 the voluntary agencies providing school meals in Bradford had been unable to cope with the increased demand...In 1907 the Bradford Feeding Experiment...was undertaken by Dr. Ralph Crowly and Miss Cuff...Crowly defined his objectives to ascertain what effect the giving of food had upon the children...it was thought that the experiment might prove useful as a practical guide to the character and meals to be provided, and the best methods to adopt in the serving of them. Breakfast and dinner were given to about 40 children who were considered to be most in need of them. The experiment was seen as important for socialisation, teaching good table manners and hygiene. Tables were covered with cloths and decorated with flowers. It was also viewed as a way of educating the parents...As a result of this experiment, a free school meals service was brought into operation in the city in 1907-8. A central kitchen was used, the food being despatched by motor van and tramcar service to the dining rooms'...By 1913 when Miss Cuff delivered a report to the NFRA the service was in full swing. Breakfasts, of bread and jam and milk, currant loaf and cocoa, or porridge, treacle, bread and margarine and milk were provded all year. Menus were arranged in groups according to the seasons:

SUMMER 1912:
Mon;: potato and onion soup, sago pudding;
Tues: shepherd's pie, green peas, stewed fruit;
Wed: Yorkshire pudding, gravy, greens, rice and sultanas;
Thurs: Scotch barley broth, currant pasty;
Fri: fish and potato pie, peas, parsley sauce, blancmange and jam.
AUTUMN 1912 AND SPRING 1913:
Mon: potato and onion soup, wholemeal cake;
Tues: hashed beef and savoury blass, rice pudding;
Wed: Yorkshire cheese pudding, peas, gravy, stewed fruit;
Thurs: shepherd's pie, green peas, sago pudding;
Fri: fish and potato pie, peas, parsley sauce, rice and sultanas.
WINTER 1912-3
Mon: brown vegetable soup, jam roly-poly pudding, sauce;
Tues: savoury batter, beans, gravy, semolina pudding;
Wed: potato and onion soup, ginger pudding, sweet sauce;
Thurs: stewed beef and gravy, mashed potatoes, baked jam roll;
Fri: fish and potato pie, parsley sauce, peas, sago pudding.
(Peas were dried, beans were brown or white haricots).

School meals met with a mixed reception...The fear that meals would be seen as handouts proved unfounded. Free school meals were seen as having the stigma of poverty attached, and parents paid whenever they could."
---"Learning How to Eat in Public: School Dinners," Laura Mason, Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery: Public Eating [Prospect Books:Devon] 1991 (p. 206-9)

Additional details & the original act.


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© Lynne Olver 2004
7 March 2014