With the news a few days ago about new federal standards for school meals, I was rereading posts in this thread and reading accounts of school lunches of the past. It is striking that most of the issues we raised in the last few years here were considered and addressed a century ago. The passages below are all from Food Timeline: School Lunches
. For example,
Why serving nutritious lunches for school children is a necessity (from Mary Swartz Rose, PhD, assistant professor, Dept. of Nutrition, Teachers College, Columbia University, Feeding the Family
, NY: MacMillan, 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.
Dr. Rose gives an example of a menu from Philadelphia:
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
It seems rather short in the vegetable and fruit departments, although meat is only served once.
How to get kids to eat what’s better for them rather than junk food (also from Rose's book):
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
Menu Bulletin No. 37
N.B. You require 800 balanced Calories for Lunch. Purchase the items which give you this quantity.
Split pea, bread and butter...Calories: 310; Price, 5 cents
Veal stew with vegetables, bread and butter...Calories: 350; Price, 10 cents
Lima beans...Calories: 125; Price, 3 cents
Date nut on graham bread...Calories: 245; Price, 4 cents
Chopped egg...Calories: 200; Price, 4 cents
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
Cecilias...Calories: 100; Price, 3 for 1 cent
Fireside peanut jumbles...Calories: 110; Price, 2 for 1 cent
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
Milk...Calories: 140; Price. 3 cents
Cocoa...Calories: 110; Price, 3 cents
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.
And even this early, there is a branded product served: Horton's ice cream.