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School Lunch Politics


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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

Promotional Information

With School Lunch Politics, Sue Levine has served up a rich plate on which the histories of food, public policy, childhood, and social reform come together in complicated, intermingling ways. The result is a capacious and balanced book about the elusive quest for an equitable society and a balanced meal. -- Daniel Horowitz, author of "The Anxieties of Affluence" School Lunch Politics tells the fascinating history of the National School Lunch Program, which officially began in 1946 and continues to this day. This is an important book and will be valuable for many audiences. It should receive attention not only from historians (especially historians of twentieth-century social policy) but also a broader audience interested in the current obesity crisis and the commercialization of public life. Any reader of Fast Food Nation will love this book. -- Robyn Muncy, University of Maryland

About 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".


"A comprehensive examination of school lunches' complex history from the birth of home economics and food as a nutritional science to the arrival of vending machines in cafeterias."--Eliza Krigman, The Nation "[T]his book is an admirable history of the political landscape of school lunch, setting the stage for future scholarship on this rich and intriguing topic... Levine's book is a fine study of the history of school lunch vis-a-vis welfare programs and politics."--Amy Bentley, American Historical Review "[Susan Levine] traces the [school lunch] program back to the Progressive Era, when localized charities distributed school lunches as a way to counteract malnutrition. But over the course of the program's lifetime, the interests of the agricultural and commercial food industries have largely superseded those of students. Levine provides an in-depth look at how such factors as early nutritionists' disdain for Italian cooking have led to the ubiquitous greasy pizza of today's school cafeteria."--Education Week "Levine chronicles the history of what she describes as the most popular--yet flawed and poorly understood--social welfare program in the US: The National School Lunch Program... While studies in the politics of food have become popular in the last decade, as have studies of welfare, Levine's work stands out for linking these two areas of inquiry."--M. J. Garrison, Choice "Levine has succeeded in writing the rare policy history that is also a page turner. Her engaging and at times witty prose tells a story of food science, agricultural surplus, gender, race, and the welfare state. She puts a human face on the policy makers in this story, if not the recipients of free lunches."--Meghan K. Winchell, Reviews in American History "Susan Levine's highly readable and politically astute history of the school lunch program explains why things have not worked out as well for that program. The answer Levine provides in this book is quite sobering. Perhaps, the more people read books like Susan Levine's, the more citizens can empower themselves to push past those constraints and begin to address the fundamental inequities that persist in the U.S."--Sanford Schram, Teachers College Record "This book is an excellent resource for FCS professionals involved in food and nutrition, as well as those interested in the early work of Ellen Richards. The illustrations and tables are helpful."--Claudia A. Engelmeier, Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences "[G]iven Levine's thorough account of the political events that shaped the century-long history of American school lunch programs, it is likely that they will find plenty of useful references as they seek to solve the dilemma Levine describes: how to serve up balanced meals with available resources, while attending to economic and racial inequalities. Above all, we are left convinced that school lunch is everyone's problem, one way or another."--Sharron Dalton, Gastronomica "Historians of education should find it to be a provocative study that questions the role of the public school in a new and interesting way."--Jayne R. Beilke, H-Net Reviews

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