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. Mark. Gooley

    I wonder what “table fat” is. Perhaps some mix of animal fats, largely pork fat and beef tallow? There is some nutrition information on line for “table fat, NFS” but I can’t to find what it is, nor what NFS is (like USP, only for food?) Maybe it could be hydrogenated even then. The Internet has vast lacunae.

    Perhaps the type of fat depended on what was available. Unfortunately, margarine did become popular during WWII, largely because butter was rationed.

    Reply
  2. fredt

    1946 wheat was not like modern wheat. It would be quite low in protein, and higher in minerals, lower in carbohydrates by about 1/3. The milk would have been whole, possible even raw and fresh. That should have been a thick rich soup/sauce. That all sounds familiar, as my mother made a white sauce with canned salmon that was similar, butter, milk, flour, salt, heat, thickened as soon as it came to the boil, add salmon, and a bit of pepper. It was good. All this is making me hungry. Thanks for the memory. I think I will try it with find ground flax and almonds to thicken.

    It looks like a good recipe. I might try that one, using a little almond or coconut flour instead of wheat flour.

    Reply
  3. Lepoth

    Well, they obviously dropped it because it made kids fa…no, that can’t be it.

    Wait, they obviously changed because of the bad ta…no, that can’t be it either. How can you go wrong with ham and eggs?

    Uh…it was too expensive?

    It probably wasn’t supporting enough grain farmers.

    Reply
  4. wannaBeaMiser

    Tom,

    What was the average American’s life expectancy in 1946 compared to today?

    I’m not sure, but it would be a meaningless comparison anyway. We live longer on average these days, but that’s the result of pacemakers, bypass surgeries, defibrillators, stents, antibiotics, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and of course the HUGE shift away from smoking.

    Reply
  5. Dan

    I like that the milk is just called milk, nothing about it being 2%, 1%, or skim.

    I’m sure it was whole milk, probably from grass-fed cows.

    Reply
  6. Mark. Gooley

    I wonder what “table fat” is. Perhaps some mix of animal fats, largely pork fat and beef tallow? There is some nutrition information on line for “table fat, NFS” but I can’t to find what it is, nor what NFS is (like USP, only for food?) Maybe it could be hydrogenated even then. The Internet has vast lacunae.

    Perhaps the type of fat depended on what was available. Unfortunately, margarine did become popular during WWII, largely because butter was rationed.

    Reply
  7. fredt

    1946 wheat was not like modern wheat. It would be quite low in protein, and higher in minerals, lower in carbohydrates by about 1/3. The milk would have been whole, possible even raw and fresh. That should have been a thick rich soup/sauce. That all sounds familiar, as my mother made a white sauce with canned salmon that was similar, butter, milk, flour, salt, heat, thickened as soon as it came to the boil, add salmon, and a bit of pepper. It was good. All this is making me hungry. Thanks for the memory. I think I will try it with find ground flax and almonds to thicken.

    It looks like a good recipe. I might try that one, using a little almond or coconut flour instead of wheat flour.

    Reply
  8. Jared

    Least its better then school lunches I was offered of, pizza, nachos, chicken nuggets, mac n cheese with dinner rolls, etc etc. Oh, dont forget the fat free regular or chocolate milk to make it “healthy”

    Reply
  9. Nowhereman

    That looks rather… yummy. I might try that recipe sometime, scaled down, of course, and sans the flour. Of course that ham wasn’t made from a pig that had been pumped up with excess hormones, antibiotics, and was likely fed better than most pigs are today.

    Thanks for sharing this, Tom. I’m going to have to look through that archive to see what other gems there are in it. This is just another sad reminder of how far our government has fallen in it’s misguided quest to protect us from ourselves, even though in this case we did not need to be protected.

    Let me know what you find in those archives. Nothing like the food pyramid, I’ll bet.

    Reply
  10. Lepoth

    Well, they obviously dropped it because it made kids fa…no, that can’t be it.

    Wait, they obviously changed because of the bad ta…no, that can’t be it either. How can you go wrong with ham and eggs?

    Uh…it was too expensive?

    It probably wasn’t supporting enough grain farmers.

    Reply
  11. Osama

    I do indeed find fat more satiating. Although government bureaucracy can be sticky, you don’t have to follow the FDA guidelines thankfully. However, I think the FDA guidelines should put more emphasis on saturated fat and less on grains because people naturally follow authority. I do think government should get involved in some things except food. As long as there is information on the various kinds of foods, it’s the individual’s fault if they get sick or develop chronic health problems as a result of making poor choices.

    Reply
  12. wannaBeaMiser

    Tom,

    What was the average American’s life expectancy in 1946 compared to today?

    I’m not sure, but it would be a meaningless comparison anyway. We live longer on average these days, but that’s the result of pacemakers, bypass surgeries, defibrillators, stents, antibiotics, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and of course the HUGE shift away from smoking.

    Reply
  13. Dan

    I like that the milk is just called milk, nothing about it being 2%, 1%, or skim.

    I’m sure it was whole milk, probably from grass-fed cows.

    Reply
  14. Jared

    Least its better then school lunches I was offered of, pizza, nachos, chicken nuggets, mac n cheese with dinner rolls, etc etc. Oh, dont forget the fat free regular or chocolate milk to make it “healthy”

    Reply
  15. Nowhereman

    That looks rather… yummy. I might try that recipe sometime, scaled down, of course, and sans the flour. Of course that ham wasn’t made from a pig that had been pumped up with excess hormones, antibiotics, and was likely fed better than most pigs are today.

    Thanks for sharing this, Tom. I’m going to have to look through that archive to see what other gems there are in it. This is just another sad reminder of how far our government has fallen in it’s misguided quest to protect us from ourselves, even though in this case we did not need to be protected.

    Let me know what you find in those archives. Nothing like the food pyramid, I’ll bet.

    Reply
  16. Osama

    I do indeed find fat more satiating. Although government bureaucracy can be sticky, you don’t have to follow the FDA guidelines thankfully. However, I think the FDA guidelines should put more emphasis on saturated fat and less on grains because people naturally follow authority. I do think government should get involved in some things except food. As long as there is information on the various kinds of foods, it’s the individual’s fault if they get sick or develop chronic health problems as a result of making poor choices.

    Reply
  17. Amy

    Thanks for letting us know about the exhibit. I’ll check it out and let you know what I think of it.

    Reply
  18. damaged justice

    On another one of those darn low-carb forums I just can’t make myself stay away from, there was a thread about the “Food Plate” replacing the pyramid, where at one point someone complained, “Why do people always have to turn this into a political issue?” Here’s a hint: IT IS INHERENTLY A POLITICAL ISSUE. The ones who made it a political issue to begin with were the politicians, and their enablers, the Mrs. Grundy voters. Then again, I’m one of those simple-minded idiots who, instead of whining about how much your poor choices are costing me, and forcing you to make better ones, I’d prefer you just stop forcing me to pay for your choices.

    Amen to that.

    Reply
  19. Amy

    Thanks for letting us know about the exhibit. I’ll check it out and let you know what I think of it.

    Reply
  20. Mike

    I would have totally eaten that for school lunch!!

    I read an article touting the new “food plate” a few days ago. I have seen such non-information as this is, it tells me nothing useful about food or how our body works. Please don’t tell me that somebody makes $200,000 a year to come up with this. What kind of screaming would we get if I were president and my wife started advocating a Paleo diet?

    I’m pretty sure the grain lobby would go nuts.

    Reply
  21. Liz

    Regarding the life expectancy issue: infant mortality rates have declined by 85% since the 40’s. This alone raises the current life expectancy rate substantially, since adding zeros obviously reduces the average.

    People often make the argument that we are living longer, but from the numbers I’ve seen, the actual number of people who live to be 60+ are pretty close to what they were many years ago. Considering all of the advancements we have made (probably should put that in quotation marks), that’s not so good.

    Even 200 years ago, if you made it to age 30, your chances of living to be old were pretty good. Look how many of The Founders lived into their 80s or 90s.

    Reply
  22. damaged justice

    On another one of those darn low-carb forums I just can’t make myself stay away from, there was a thread about the “Food Plate” replacing the pyramid, where at one point someone complained, “Why do people always have to turn this into a political issue?” Here’s a hint: IT IS INHERENTLY A POLITICAL ISSUE. The ones who made it a political issue to begin with were the politicians, and their enablers, the Mrs. Grundy voters. Then again, I’m one of those simple-minded idiots who, instead of whining about how much your poor choices are costing me, and forcing you to make better ones, I’d prefer you just stop forcing me to pay for your choices.

    Amen to that.

    Reply
  23. Pat

    They had a food circle as well (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/whats-cooking/preview/kitchen.html) in the kitchen section. I like the 7 groups, no emphasis on portion size, grains were group 6 and fats were group 7. Nothing about low-fat milk in Dairy (group 4) or lean meats (group 5). Plus anything you want once you have eaten something from the 7 groups. And the illustrations are all of unprocessed or slightly processed foods. Real food!

    Reply
  24. Mike

    I would have totally eaten that for school lunch!!

    I read an article touting the new “food plate” a few days ago. I have seen such non-information as this is, it tells me nothing useful about food or how our body works. Please don’t tell me that somebody makes $200,000 a year to come up with this. What kind of screaming would we get if I were president and my wife started advocating a Paleo diet?

    I’m pretty sure the grain lobby would go nuts.

    Reply
  25. Liz

    Regarding the life expectancy issue: infant mortality rates have declined by 85% since the 40’s. This alone raises the current life expectancy rate substantially, since adding zeros obviously reduces the average.

    People often make the argument that we are living longer, but from the numbers I’ve seen, the actual number of people who live to be 60+ are pretty close to what they were many years ago. Considering all of the advancements we have made (probably should put that in quotation marks), that’s not so good.

    Even 200 years ago, if you made it to age 30, your chances of living to be old were pretty good. Look how many of The Founders lived into their 80s or 90s.

    Reply
  26. Andrea

    The ratio of fat to flour looks to me like the flour is used primarily as a thickening agent, to make a good roux. You add milk to that to make white gravy – I suspect that whole step was used to make the ham stick together.

    I’m not a fan of bread, but I do love my roux! If you wanna make it gluten free, you could use corn starch, I suppose. Coconut flour doesn’t work very well, sadly. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a good carb-free substitute that will make a good roux. Any thoughts?

    I tried some low-carb thickener once and didn’t care for it. It just added a cardboard taste to the food.

    Reply
  27. Annelie/Wildrat

    Even if the tablefat is margarine it most likely was much better than what we got today since margarine was made from tallow (or possibly lard..?) in the beginning. Don’t think they started manipulating vegetable oil and using it for margarine until much later…

    Reply
  28. Pat

    They had a food circle as well (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/whats-cooking/preview/kitchen.html) in the kitchen section. I like the 7 groups, no emphasis on portion size, grains were group 6 and fats were group 7. Nothing about low-fat milk in Dairy (group 4) or lean meats (group 5). Plus anything you want once you have eaten something from the 7 groups. And the illustrations are all of unprocessed or slightly processed foods. Real food!

    Reply
  29. Allison

    To Andrea: Depending on what you are making sauce for, I’ve discovered that creamed coconut or pureed cauliflower work well for thickening.

    Reply
  30. John Newlin

    You should bring the recipe to your kids’ school and see if they will make it. It would at least be humorous to see the reactions of the kitchen staff. Please film it 🙂

    I’ll call you from prison and let you know the results.

    Reply
  31. C

    And nowadays the schools serve hot dogs in white buns with canned fruit soaked in high fructose corn syrup and skim chocolate milk, taking 3 healthy things (meat, fruit, and milk) and making them as unhealthy as possible.

    Reply
  32. Andrea

    The ratio of fat to flour looks to me like the flour is used primarily as a thickening agent, to make a good roux. You add milk to that to make white gravy – I suspect that whole step was used to make the ham stick together.

    I’m not a fan of bread, but I do love my roux! If you wanna make it gluten free, you could use corn starch, I suppose. Coconut flour doesn’t work very well, sadly. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a good carb-free substitute that will make a good roux. Any thoughts?

    I tried some low-carb thickener once and didn’t care for it. It just added a cardboard taste to the food.

    Reply
  33. Annelie/Wildrat

    Even if the tablefat is margarine it most likely was much better than what we got today since margarine was made from tallow (or possibly lard..?) in the beginning. Don’t think they started manipulating vegetable oil and using it for margarine until much later…

    Reply
  34. Allison

    To Andrea: Depending on what you are making sauce for, I’ve discovered that creamed coconut or pureed cauliflower work well for thickening.

    Reply
  35. John Newlin

    You should bring the recipe to your kids’ school and see if they will make it. It would at least be humorous to see the reactions of the kitchen staff. Please film it 🙂

    I’ll call you from prison and let you know the results.

    Reply
  36. C

    And nowadays the schools serve hot dogs in white buns with canned fruit soaked in high fructose corn syrup and skim chocolate milk, taking 3 healthy things (meat, fruit, and milk) and making them as unhealthy as possible.

    Reply
  37. Nowhereman

    Pat beat me to the really great find there, and one which I think ought to be reproduced here is the food “wheel” or “circle” with 7 basic groups, none larger or smaller than the other. Furthermore as Pat noted it’s all real, whole food, and butter has it’s own separate group! How awesome is that?

    I also got a kick out of the caption for the image:

    “Some of us might like to reinstate this food guide from World War II because butter has its own food group.”

    Wouldn’t you, too? Drop the margarine and cereals, and it’s perfect! 😀

    Hint: You should do a comparison of this chart to the old Pyramid as well as the new “pie” chart.

    Reply
  38. Linda

    “What kind of screaming would we get if I were president and my wife started advocating a Paleo diet?”

    Seems to me there are at least two issues that no sitting president or candidate would ever admit to, one being an atheist, the other a LCHF proponent. Can you imagine the uproar either stance would cause?
    And it is a shame that our political leaders can’t be more forthcoming and honest with us, from day one.

    The question is which admission would do the most political damage.

    Reply
  39. 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
  40. Nowhereman

    Pat beat me to the really great find there, and one which I think ought to be reproduced here is the food “wheel” or “circle” with 7 basic groups, none larger or smaller than the other. Furthermore as Pat noted it’s all real, whole food, and butter has it’s own separate group! How awesome is that?

    I also got a kick out of the caption for the image:

    “Some of us might like to reinstate this food guide from World War II because butter has its own food group.”

    Wouldn’t you, too? Drop the margarine and cereals, and it’s perfect! 😀

    Hint: You should do a comparison of this chart to the old Pyramid as well as the new “pie” chart.

    Reply
  41. 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
  42. Linda

    “What kind of screaming would we get if I were president and my wife started advocating a Paleo diet?”

    Seems to me there are at least two issues that no sitting president or candidate would ever admit to, one being an atheist, the other a LCHF proponent. Can you imagine the uproar either stance would cause?
    And it is a shame that our political leaders can’t be more forthcoming and honest with us, from day one.

    The question is which admission would do the most political damage.

    Reply

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