It Happens Every Noon: Looking Back as We Look Ahead for School Food Reform

March 15, 2010

By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director

This video outlines the early days of the school lunch program. It's entertaining just for its nostalgic aspects. And in some ways, it highlights what we're missing in today's school lunch program.

It's worth noting the things that haven't changed since this video was created: Just like today, many schools in the video don't have kitchens, not enough kids participate in the school lunch program, schools face competition from fast food, and school meals are often the only full meal students eat all day. Community involvement is still so important.

But the differences are even more clear. What stood out to me the most is the human touch of the homemade breads, soups, hand-tossed salads and freshly prepared hot meals. It's almost shocking to see a school cafeteria serving only foods that seem to be made from ingredients that you can read and understand rather than highly processed packaged meals. It just seems so … nostalgic.

Maybe you can never go back, but taking a moment to look at a familiar program through a different (in this case nostalgic) lens can help us see all the ways we can do better — by addressing the problems that still exist. Looking back lets us see what's changed for the better, what's changed for the worse, and what we can do to give kids the kind of meal we really want them to eat every day. We can start by improving funding for meals, getting more local produce into school food and investing in kitchen infrastructure.

As they said back in 1966: You can't teach a hungry child. To take action for fresh, healthy school food, be sure to visit HSC's Child Nutrition Act action center.

And to give credit, I found this video here.