Title Page, Copyright page, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

Abbreviations

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pp. ix-xii

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Introduction

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pp. 1-10

If it is true that everyone has a story about food, then everyone probably has a horror story about school lunches. When the pseudonymous teacher Mrs. Q began eating federally subsidized lunches with her students in 2010, documenting each meal on her blog, she was often appalled by the quality of the food. Lunches were something to be “survived” rather than enjoyed. “The patty was how do you say nothing like any hamburger I have ever eaten. Mystery meat in every...

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Chapter 1. “The Old-Fashioned Lunch Box . . . Seems Likely to Be Extinct”: The Promise of School Meals in the United States

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pp. 11-32

“I grant that our school children have food enough and, in the main, good food,” Horace Makechnie declared at the 1897 meeting of the American Medical Association, “but are they nourished?” Invoking a rhetorical device that would become a cliché in subsequent years— “What! starvation around tables loaded with food?”—Makechnie called attention to one of the many child health concerns that arose in the wake of compulsory schooling. With more and more American children spending long hours away from home, he warned,...

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Chapter 2. (Il)Legal Lunches: School Meals in Chicago

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pp. 33-58

In 1908, the Chicago Board of Education estimated that of the 300,000 children attending public schools, nearly 5,000 were “habitually hungry,” upward of 15,000 were not receiving “three square meals daily,” and over 30,000 needed more food.1 At the Oliver Goldsmith School in the Jewish Ghetto,2 for example, 5 percent of the children arrived at school without having eaten breakfast. According to the school’s principal:...

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Chapter 3. Menus for the Melting Pot: School Meals in New York City

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pp. 59-86

When the Salvation Army offered free breakfasts to Manhattan children in 1905, something strange happened. Despite the grinding poverty of the Lower East Side, where the nine breakfast stations were situated, many of the children would not accept the food, and the Salvation Army eventually abandoned the effort. Lillian Wald, founder of the Henry Street Settlement House, thought the program failed “because regard seemed not to have been paid to the religious and national customs of the children, the Jewish children having felt possibly that the...

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Chapter 4. Food for the Farm Belt: School Meals in Rural America

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pp. 87-110

In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, the lunch hour at a county school reveals the subtle ways in which food, health, and poverty were interconnected for many rural children.

“Everybody who goes home to lunch hold up your hands,” said Miss Caroline. . . .
The town children did so, and she looked us over.
“Everybody who brings his lunch put it on top of his desk.”
Molasses buckets appeared from nowhere, and the ceiling...

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Chapter 5. “A Nation Ill-Housed, Ill-Clad, Ill-Nourished”: School Meals under Federal Relief Programs

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pp. 111-134

When the stock market crashed in October of 1929, it did not so much cause the Great Depression as herald its arrival. The agricultural economy was already badly depressed.1 High tariffs and interest rates, currency instability, and declining consumption in the late 1920s all contributed to a national economic slowdown, but it was the years between 1929 and 1933 that witnessed the worst of the decline: real GNP fell by 30 percent, new investments failed to keep pace with the...

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Chapter 6. From Aid to Entitlement. Creation of the National School Lunch Program

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pp. 135-158

With American entry into World War II, the last vestiges of the Great Depression were effectively quashed. Unemployment fell to less than 10 percent, agricultural surpluses became a boon rather than a liability, and industrial production accelerated. Yet most recognized that wartime spending lifted the country out of the Depression only by running up the national debt, effectively trading one economic problem for another. After the cancellation of many New Deal programs, most notably the WPA, parents and schools became increasingly concerned...

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Epilogue

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pp. 159-166

In 1945, with passage of the National School Lunch Act imminent, Surgeon General Thomas Parran remarked that “one important incidental result of such a school-lunch program will be to encourage the consumption and production of nutritionally useful foods.”2 His use of the term “incidental” is telling, as these were not specific aims for which policies were established or funding committed. At best, such effects on production and consumption would be the side effects of a program ultimately more focused on agricultural economics and food...

Acknowledgments

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pp. 167-168

Notes

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pp. 169-198

Index

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pp. 199-202

About the Author

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pp. 203-208