School Lunch Politics: The Surprising History of America's Favorite Welfare Program

School Lunch Politics: The Surprising History of America's Favorite Welfare Program

by Susan Levine
     
 

Whether kids love or hate the food served there, the American school lunchroom is the stage for one of the most popular yet flawed social welfare programs in our nation's history. School Lunch Politics covers this complex and fascinating part of American culture, from its origins in early twentieth-century nutrition science, through the establishment of the

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Overview

Whether kids love or hate the food served there, the American school lunchroom is the stage for one of the most popular yet flawed social welfare programs in our nation's history. School Lunch Politics covers this complex and fascinating part of American culture, from its origins in early twentieth-century nutrition science, through the establishment of the National School Lunch Program in 1946, to the transformation of school meals into a poverty program during the 1970s and 1980s. Susan Levine investigates the politics and culture of food; most specifically, who decides what American children should be eating, what policies develop from those decisions, and how these policies might be better implemented.

Even now, the school lunch program remains problematic, a juggling act between modern beliefs about food, nutrition science, and public welfare. Levine points to the program menus' dependence on agricultural surplus commodities more than on children's nutritional needs, and she discusses the political policy barriers that have limited the number of children receiving meals and which children were served. But she also shows why the school lunch program has outlasted almost every other twentieth-century federal welfare initiative. In the midst of privatization, federal budget cuts, and suspect nutritional guidelines where even ketchup might be categorized as a vegetable, the program remains popular and feeds children who would otherwise go hungry.

As politicians and the media talk about a national obesity epidemic, School Lunch Politics is a timely arrival to the food policy debates shaping American health, welfare, and equality.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691050881
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
02/25/2008
Series:
Politics and Society in Twentieth Century America Series
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Susan Levine is professor of history at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is the author of "Labor's True Woman" and "Degrees of Equality".

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Tables vii

Acknowledgments ix

INTRODUCTION: The Politics of Lunch 1

CHAPTER 1: A Diet for Americans 10

The Search for a Scientific Diet 12

A Diet for Americans 23

Nutrition and Malnutrition 29

School Lunch as Public Policy 33

CHAPTER 2: Welfare for Farmers and Children 39

School Lunches for Hungry Children 40

Eating the Surplus 45

The Institutionalization of School Lunch 49

CHAPTER 3: Nutrition Standards and Standard Diets 54

School Lunch Standards 54

Nutrition in the National Defense 60

Eating Democracy 66

CHAPTER 4: A National School Lunch Program 71

Agriculture or Education? 73

The Liberal Compromise 76

Discrimination and Segregation 82

CHAPTER 5: Ideals and Realities in the Lunchroom 89

Nutrition and Surplus Commodities 91

Nutrition and the Food Service Industry 95

The Limits of the Lunchroom 98

CHAPTER 6: No Free Lunch 105

Discovering Hunger in America 106

Agriculture or Welfare? 108

Food and the Poverty Line 120

CHAPTER 7: A Right to Lunch 127

The Free Lunch Mandate 128

The Women's Campaign 130

School Lunch and Civil Rights 136

Eligibility Standards and the Right to Lunch 142

CHAPTER 8: Let Them Eat Ketchup 151

Who Pays for Free Lunch? 152

Combo Meals and Nutrition Standards 163

Ketchup and Other Vegetables 171

EPILOGUE Fast Food and Poor Children 179

Notes 193

Index 243

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