Thesis ID: CBB001567263

Eating to Learn, Learning to Eat: School Meals and Nutrition Policy in the United States, 1900--1946 (2011)


Ruis, Andrew R. (Author)

University of Wisconsin at Madison
Leavitt, Judith Walzer

Publication Date: 2011
Edition Details: Advisor: Leavitt, Judith Walzer.
Physical Details: 333 pp.
Language: English

A nearly ubiquitous aspect of American childhood, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) operates in over 100,000 schools in the United States. For over sixty years the NSLP--the longest running public health nutrition initiative in U.S. history and the only one aimed at school-aged children--has struggled to provide warm, appetizing, and nutritious meals at a low cost. Expected to address concerns ranging from poverty to malnutrition and childhood obesity, saddled with incentives to rely heavily on surplus commodities, increasingly dependent private food companies, and chronically underfunded, the NSLP--despite its many successes--has come to symbolize the failures of American nutrition policy. Although the NSLP began in 1947, it resulted from over four decades of experimentation and development at the local level. Virtually nonexistent in 1900, school meal programs became nearly ubiquitous in less than three decades. By the time Congress passed the NSLA in 1946, a third of the nation's children were already receiving food along with their education. Despite many emendations, the core architecture of the NSLA remains much the same as it was in the 1940s. Decisions and developments from the first decades of the 20th century continue to define school meal programs, influencing both the composition of the NSLP and the dialogue surrounding its place in the public health infrastructure. The history of school meal programs is one of continuous conflict betwen ideology and implementation. From the turn of the 20th century, reformers unflaggingly persisted in the belief that children can and should be fed nutritious meals at school, thereby fostering lifelong eating habits and helping to ensure good nutritional health, but their goals inevitably and repeatedly foundered against the harsh realities of scientific uncertainty, political compromise, and economic parsimony. Nevertheless, school meals drew public and professional attention to the importance of physical health in the educational process, the life-long health consequences of malnourishment during childhood, and the fact that children require different health care than adults. The nourishment of school children became central to negotiations between the health responsibilities of home and state, private charity and public welfare, national and local government.


Description Cited in Dissertation Abstracts International-A 72/10, Apr 2012. Proquest Document ID: 885173414.

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Authors & Contributors
Wallach, Jennifer Jensen
Bezerra, José Arimatea Barros
Brinkmann, Sören
Carstairs, Catherine
Dunn, Elizabeth Cullen
Ouédraogo, Arouna P.
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
History of Education
History of Psychiatry
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
Llull: Revista de la Sociedad Española de Historia de las Ciencias y de las Técnicas
Rutgers University Press
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
Cornell University Press
Duke University Press
Rowman & Littlefield
University of California Press
Food and foods
Nutrition; dietetics
Public health
Food industry and trade
Science and society
Carton, Paul
Davis, Adelle
Feingold, Ben F.
Keys, Ancel
Sabin, Florence Rena
Funk, Casimir
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
21st century
18th century
United States
Great Britain
Minnesota (U.S.)
University of Minnesota
United States. Food and Drug Administration

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