The push for school lunch programs initially came about during the turn of the last century. The first programs were rolled out in Chicago and New York public schools, then the largest school systems in the nation, in the early 1900s. Since the earliest days of those initial efforts, there has been a constant debate surrounding how best to feed America’s students.
The arguments that surround the issue haven’t really changed in the past 100 years. The crux of this century-long debate has revolved around a few basic questions; how much money should we spend per student, how do we best provide food to students from economically disenfranchised families, and how do we delineate the roles of federal, state and local governments in our school food programs.
This week on The Way We Eat, we’re taking a look at the history of America’s school lunch programs. From it’s earliest days in the late 1800’s as one of the main policy platforms of the progressive anti-child labor movement all the way through to the modern day dismantling of Obama-era lunch programs by President Trump.
For this conversation, we’re joined by University of Wisconsin researcher Andrew Ruis, author of the book Eating to Learn, Learning to Eat: The Origins of School Lunch in the United States. Ruis’ research examines the history of the school lunch movement and how that history has influenced modern day discourse and public policy around the issue.
Photo c/o The National Child Labor Committee [NCLC]
The music in this episode is Are We Loose Yet by Blue Dot Sessions (www.sessions.blue)