Eating to Learn, Learning to Eat: The Origins of School Lunch in the United States

Rutgers University Press
Free sample

In Eating to Learn, Learning to Eat, historian A. R. Ruis explores the origins of American school meal initiatives to explain why it was (and, to some extent, has continued to be) so difficult to establish meal programs that satisfy the often competing interests of children, parents, schools, health authorities, politicians, and the food industry. Through careful studies of several key contexts and detailed analysis of the policies and politics that governed the creation of school meal programs, Ruis demonstrates how the early history of school meal program development helps us understand contemporary debates over changes to school lunch policies.  
 
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About the author

A. R. RUIS is a fellow in the department of surgery and department of medical history and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a researcher in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.
 
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Additional Information

Publisher
Rutgers University Press
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Published on
Jul 3, 2017
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Pages
220
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ISBN
9780813584096
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Cooking / History
Education / History
Medical / History
Medical / Public Health
Political Science / Public Policy / Agriculture & Food Policy
Social Science / Agriculture & Food
Social Science / Children's Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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A century ago, only local charities existed to feed children. Today 368 million children receive school lunches in 151 countries, in programs supported by state and national governments. In Feeding the Future, Jennifer Geist Rutledge investigates how and why states have assumed responsibility for feeding children, chronicling the origins and spread of school lunch programs around the world, starting with the adoption of these programs in the United States and some Western European nations, and then tracing their growth through the efforts of the World Food Program. The primary focus of Feeding the Future is on social policy formation: how and why did school lunch programs emerge? Given that all countries developed education systems, why do some countries have these programs and others do not? Rutledge draws on a wealth of information—including archival resources, interviews with national policymakers in several countries, United Nations data, and agricultural statistics—to underscore the ways in which a combination of ideological and material factors led to the creation of these enduringly popular policies. She shows that, in many ways, these programs emerged largely as an unintended effect of agricultural policy that rewarded farmers for producing surpluses. School lunches provided a ready outlet for this surplus. She also describes how, in each of the cases of school lunch creation, policy entrepreneurs, motivated by a commitment to alleviate childhood malnutrition, harnessed different ideas that were relevant to their state or organization in order to funnel these agricultural surpluses into school lunch programs.   The public debate over how we feed our children is becoming more and more politically charged. Feeding the Future provides vital background to these debates, illuminating the history of food policies and the ways our food system is shaped by global social policy.   
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.

Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.

Sodas are astonishing products. Little more than flavored sugar-water, these drinks cost practically nothing to produce or buy, yet have turned their makers--principally Coca-Cola and PepsiCo--into a multibillion-dollar industry with global recognition, distribution, and political power. Billed as "refreshing," "tasty," "crisp," and "the real thing," sodas also happen to be so well established to contribute to poor dental hygiene, higher calorie intake, obesity, and type-2 diabetes that the first line of defense against any of these conditions is to simply stop drinking them. Habitually drinking large volumes of soda not only harms individual health, but also burdens societies with runaway healthcare costs. So how did products containing absurdly inexpensive ingredients become multibillion dollar industries and international brand icons, while also having a devastating impact on public health? In Soda Politics, the 2016 James Beard Award for Writing & Literature Winner, Dr. Marion Nestle answers this question by detailing all of the ways that the soft drink industry works overtime to make drinking soda as common and accepted as drinking water, for adults and children. Dr. Nestle, a renowned food and nutrition policy expert and public health advocate, shows how sodas are principally miracles of advertising; Coca-Cola and PepsiCo spend billions of dollars each year to promote their sale to children, minorities, and low-income populations, in developing as well as industrialized nations. And once they have stimulated that demand, they leave no stone unturned to protect profits. That includes lobbying to prevent any measures that would discourage soda sales, strategically donating money to health organizations and researchers who can make the science about sodas appear confusing, and engaging in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities to create goodwill and silence critics. Soda Politics follows the money trail wherever it leads, revealing how hard Big Soda works to sell as much of their products as possible to an increasingly obese world. But Soda Politics does more than just diagnose a problem--it encourages readers to help find solutions. From Berkeley to Mexico City and beyond, advocates are successfully countering the relentless marketing, promotion, and political protection of sugary drinks. And their actions are having an impact--for all of the hardball and softball tactics the soft drink industry employs to maintain the status quo, soda consumption has been flat or falling for years. Health advocacy campaigns are now the single greatest threat to soda companies' profits. Soda Politics provides readers with the tools they need to keep up pressure on Big Soda in order to build healthier and more sustainable food systems.
New York Times Bestseller

What are the consequences if the people given control over our government have no idea how it works?

"The election happened," remembers Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, then deputy secretary of the Department of Energy. "And then there was radio silence." Across all departments, similar stories were playing out: Trump appointees were few and far between; those that did show up were shockingly uninformed about the functions of their new workplace. Some even threw away the briefing books that had been prepared for them.

Michael Lewis’s brilliant narrative takes us into the engine rooms of a government under attack by its own leaders. In Agriculture the funding of vital programs like food stamps and school lunches is being slashed. The Commerce Department may not have enough staff to conduct the 2020 Census properly. Over at Energy, where international nuclear risk is managed, it’s not clear there will be enough inspectors to track and locate black market uranium before terrorists do.

Willful ignorance plays a role in these looming disasters. If your ambition is to maximize short-term gains without regard to the long-term cost, you are better off not knowing those costs. If you want to preserve your personal immunity to the hard problems, it’s better never to really understand those problems. There is upside to ignorance, and downside to knowledge. Knowledge makes life messier. It makes it a bit more difficult for a person who wishes to shrink the world to a worldview.

If there are dangerous fools in this book, there are also heroes, unsung, of course. They are the linchpins of the system—those public servants whose knowledge, dedication, and proactivity keep the machinery running. Michael Lewis finds them, and he asks them what keeps them up at night.

FOREWORD BY LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA AND LUIS A. MIRANDA, JR.

The true story of how a group of chefs fed hundreds of thousands of hungry Americans after Hurricane Maria and touched the hearts of many more

Chef José Andrés arrived in Puerto Rico four days after Hurricane Maria ripped through the island. The economy was destroyed and for most people there was no clean water, no food, no power, no gas, and no way to communicate with the outside world.

Andrés addressed the humanitarian crisis the only way he knew how: by feeding people, one hot meal at a time. From serving sancocho with his friend José Enrique at Enrique’s ravaged restaurant in San Juan to eventually cooking 100,000 meals a day at more than a dozen kitchens across the island, Andrés and his team fed hundreds of thousands of people, including with massive paellas made to serve thousands of people alone.. At the same time, they also confronted a crisis with deep roots, as well as the broken and wasteful system that helps keep some of the biggest charities and NGOs in business.

Based on Andrés’s insider’s take as well as on meetings, messages, and conversations he had while in Puerto Rico, We Fed an Island movingly describes how a network of community kitchens activated real change and tells an extraordinary story of hope in the face of disasters both natural and man-made, offering suggestions for how to address a crisis like this in the future. 

Beyond that, a portion of the proceeds from the book will be donated to the Chef Relief Network of World Central Kitchen for efforts in Puerto Rico and beyond.

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