School Lunch, 1946

      74 Comments on School Lunch, 1946

A reader sent me a link to a site promoting an exhibit at the National Archives titled What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? Here’s a brief description from the site:

From the farm to the dinner table, explore the records of the National Archives that trace the Government’s effect on what Americans eat.

Without actually seeing the exhibit, I’m going to guess whoever created it has a more positive view of the government’s effect on what we eat than I do.  But as I clicked around the site, I found this school-lunch recipe from 1946, which the exhibit states was the first year of the nationwide school lunch program:

Eighteen ounces of flour.  Okay, not my favorite ingredient, but it’s not much for 100 portions.  Now look at the rest of the recipe:  2 ¼ pounds of table fat, 2 ¼ gallons of milk,  18 eggs and 10 pounds of ham.

If that was on the menu in schools today, my girls might not be packing their own lunches.

 

 

 

From the farm to the dinner table, explore the records of the National Archives that trace the Government’s effect on what Americans eat.
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74 thoughts on “School Lunch, 1946

  1. Ed Terry

    Using data from the USDA Food Nutrient Report, SR23, and assuming the table fat was lard, the per serving composition was:
    Protein 13 g
    Carbs 9 g
    Fat 17 g

    That’s 63% fat by calories. Serve that to school kids today, and you’d be brought up on charges.

    Reply
  2. Dave, RN

    A quick look shows that there are two types of fats. Cooking fats and table fats. Perhaps table fats are butter and or margarine. Something you would keep on your table?
    Funny thing about the USDA food guidelines. They are required by law to update them once every five years. Meaning that they have to sit down and think of something every five years. Like our dietary needs change by the clock every 5 years. They sure could sure save lot of money by just telling the truth and then leaving it alone!

    Maybe they should have adopted the 1946 guidelines, declared victory, and gone home.

    Reply
  3. Adrienne

    It’s been a while since my sons were in school, but even then I could see a shift away from actually cooking in the school cafeterias. Now, everything comes out of a box, bag or can. Most of the food is of the “snack” variety where the students choose on the serving line. The choices that I was witness to indicated that students, even high schoolers, will choose what they prefer, regardless of how unhealthy the food it. Chocolate milk (skim), frito pie, cookies, hot dogs, potato chips. If there was nutritious food offered, it would not get eaten. Some of it was peer pressure–if your peeps were eating the skim choco milk and frito pie, then you would not rock the boat and pick something healthy without suffering ridicule.

    Reply
  4. Dave, RN

    A quick look shows that there are two types of fats. Cooking fats and table fats. Perhaps table fats are butter and or margarine. Something you would keep on your table?
    Funny thing about the USDA food guidelines. They are required by law to update them once every five years. Meaning that they have to sit down and think of something every five years. Like our dietary needs change by the clock every 5 years. They sure could sure save lot of money by just telling the truth and then leaving it alone!

    Maybe they should have adopted the 1946 guidelines, declared victory, and gone home.

    Reply
  5. Vanessa F.

    My mom used to make this with dried beef. She called it Chipped Beef on Toast. I think she got it out of the old Betty Crocker cookbook.

    Reply
  6. ethyl d

    My uncle, who graduated high school in 1944, recently got out his high school year book for me to look through. I found it very interesting that I could not find one photo of a fat student in the whole book. Maybe because the majority of the foods the kids were eating back then were “real” foods instead of facsimiles of food concocted in a lab?

    Yup. And they probably got most of their nutrition advice from their mothers.

    Reply
  7. Vanessa F.

    My mom used to make this with dried beef. She called it Chipped Beef on Toast. I think she got it out of the old Betty Crocker cookbook.

    Reply
  8. ethyl d

    My uncle, who graduated high school in 1944, recently got out his high school year book for me to look through. I found it very interesting that I could not find one photo of a fat student in the whole book. Maybe because the majority of the foods the kids were eating back then were “real” foods instead of facsimiles of food concocted in a lab?

    Yup. And they probably got most of their nutrition advice from their mothers.

    Reply
  9. Vanessa

    Hate to say it, but I think school lunches get knocked a lot. 2 of my friends bring lunch and one buys lunch. The two that bring their lunch bring cookies, skim milk, low-fat cottage cheese with pineapple, trail mix (and pick out all the M&ms), pb&j sandwiches made with Skippy, “snack bars” that are basically cookies. The friend that buys lunch eats a hamburger or sometimes a slice of pizza. She gives away the tator tots and doesn’t like the milk. If she gets chips, she shares them with ten other kids. It’s not idealy healthy but it’s more so that junk from home.

    Parents can definitely pack garbage for kids’ lunches and often do. What annoys me when the USDA orders schools to serve grains and low-fat foods.

    Reply
  10. Vanessa

    Hate to say it, but I think school lunches get knocked a lot. 2 of my friends bring lunch and one buys lunch. The two that bring their lunch bring cookies, skim milk, low-fat cottage cheese with pineapple, trail mix (and pick out all the M&ms), pb&j sandwiches made with Skippy, “snack bars” that are basically cookies. The friend that buys lunch eats a hamburger or sometimes a slice of pizza. She gives away the tator tots and doesn’t like the milk. If she gets chips, she shares them with ten other kids. It’s not idealy healthy but it’s more so that junk from home.

    Parents can definitely pack garbage for kids’ lunches and often do. What annoys me when the USDA orders schools to serve grains and low-fat foods.

    Reply
  11. Charles

    Better late… Why is everyone completely and totally ignoring the fact that this is a recipe for a white ham/milk gravy that is to be served over cornbread? You don’t have to go far to find the same thing on many fast food menus, and probably in some of our schools: we call it biscuits and gravy here in the South.

    It’s a lot of fat and protein served over some carbohydrate. Today’s school lunch program would disallow the meal because of all the fat, which means they’d likely be serving even more carbohydrate.

    Reply
  12. Charles

    Better late… Why is everyone completely and totally ignoring the fact that this is a recipe for a white ham/milk gravy that is to be served over cornbread? You don’t have to go far to find the same thing on many fast food menus, and probably in some of our schools: we call it biscuits and gravy here in the South.

    It’s a lot of fat and protein served over some carbohydrate. Today’s school lunch program would disallow the meal because of all the fat, which means they’d likely be serving even more carbohydrate.

    Reply
  13. James Birdsall

    Well this brings back memories. I started school in 1950 in Ohio. As far as I was concerned, I loved school lunches. As someone else said, the milk was whole milk, there was lot of butter, the chili was full of meat AND no one that I can remember was the least bit fat. Of course, we walked to school, and as I told my son, it was at least 2 miles in the snow. But last summer I was visiting my home town and my sister and I measured it with her car, 0.6 mile. Sheesh.

    I used MapQuest to calculate that long, long walk to my grade school from our house in Iowa. Same as you, 0.6 miles. When I visited the old neighborhood as an adult, I also noticed the huge hills we rode up on our bikes had all gotten smaller.

    Reply
  14. James Birdsall

    Well this brings back memories. I started school in 1950 in Ohio. As far as I was concerned, I loved school lunches. As someone else said, the milk was whole milk, there was lot of butter, the chili was full of meat AND no one that I can remember was the least bit fat. Of course, we walked to school, and as I told my son, it was at least 2 miles in the snow. But last summer I was visiting my home town and my sister and I measured it with her car, 0.6 mile. Sheesh.

    I used MapQuest to calculate that long, long walk to my grade school from our house in Iowa. Same as you, 0.6 miles. When I visited the old neighborhood as an adult, I also noticed the huge hills we rode up on our bikes had all gotten smaller.

    Reply
  15. Amy

    I finally went to see the exhibit a couple of weeks ago. It was OK for a couple of hours of entertainment, but not much else. It was obviously intended to be more entertaining than educational. The exhibit barely mentioned the change in farm policy in the 70s. I suppose that would have been too boring for the average visitor. 🙂 Instead, there was plenty of text and photos about how food preferences in the white house influence national food trends. Food in the military, wartime rationing, and the school lunch program received quite a bit of attention in the exhibit too.

    I loved the big display of the 1943 food wheel (http://www.good.is/post/before-myplates-and-pyramids-there-was-the-1943-food-wheel/). The food wheel, the precursor to the USDA food pyramid and food plate, had seven sections. Americans were told to eat foods from each section every day, but with the added advice to “in addition to the basic 7…eat any other foods you want.” I love it–eat any other foods you want! I realize that suggestion is reflective of the wartime rationing and resultant food scarcity when the food wheel was introduced, but it sounds really funny by today’s standards. Oh, and to top it off, butter and (unfortunately!) fortified margarine has its own section on the food wheel.

    Food issues from the last 10-20 years weren’t given attention. For example, I don’t recall anything in the exhibit about GMOs, the national organic program, or agribusiness’ seed patents. Oh, and there was also no mention that the govt pushed low-fat foods and grains on the population since the 70s and caused an explosion in our size and health problems. (Gee, I wonder why! :-))

    Sounds like an exhibit worth missing.

    Reply
  16. Amy

    I finally went to see the exhibit a couple of weeks ago. It was OK for a couple of hours of entertainment, but not much else. It was obviously intended to be more entertaining than educational. The exhibit barely mentioned the change in farm policy in the 70s. I suppose that would have been too boring for the average visitor. 🙂 Instead, there was plenty of text and photos about how food preferences in the white house influence national food trends. Food in the military, wartime rationing, and the school lunch program received quite a bit of attention in the exhibit too.

    I loved the big display of the 1943 food wheel (http://www.good.is/post/before-myplates-and-pyramids-there-was-the-1943-food-wheel/). The food wheel, the precursor to the USDA food pyramid and food plate, had seven sections. Americans were told to eat foods from each section every day, but with the added advice to “in addition to the basic 7…eat any other foods you want.” I love it–eat any other foods you want! I realize that suggestion is reflective of the wartime rationing and resultant food scarcity when the food wheel was introduced, but it sounds really funny by today’s standards. Oh, and to top it off, butter and (unfortunately!) fortified margarine has its own section on the food wheel.

    Food issues from the last 10-20 years weren’t given attention. For example, I don’t recall anything in the exhibit about GMOs, the national organic program, or agribusiness’ seed patents. Oh, and there was also no mention that the govt pushed low-fat foods and grains on the population since the 70s and caused an explosion in our size and health problems. (Gee, I wonder why! :-))

    Sounds like an exhibit worth missing.

    Reply
  17. Iva

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    After watching Fat Head and while in the process of reading Wheat Belly, I’m in the process of making the switch for my daughter from cafeteria food to home food. I know she’ll feel a lot better and I suspect I might see a change in attitude as well. (She’s been diagnosed with GAD). While diet can’t fix “everything”, it can fix “a heck of a lot!”

    Reply
  18. Iva

    <>

    After watching Fat Head and while in the process of reading Wheat Belly, I’m in the process of making the switch for my daughter from cafeteria food to home food. I know she’ll feel a lot better and I suspect I might see a change in attitude as well. (She’s been diagnosed with GAD). While diet can’t fix “everything”, it can fix “a heck of a lot!”

    Reply

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