Food Fight!

The Battle Over the American Lunch in Schools and the Workplace


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About the Book

Whether served in a lunch pail, on a cafeteria plate, from a fast food restaurant, or with two martinis, lunch is an important historical and sociological indicator of American culture. Although the modern three-meal-a-day pattern may seem divinely ordained, it has undergone profound changes in the last century. Prior to the American industrial revolution, an agrarian society necessitated a hearty breakfast, a large noon meal called “dinner,” and a light evening repast known as “supper.” As the nineteenth century came to a close, and factories increasingly replaced farms as primary employers, the new American lifestyle forced a change in eating patterns, and a new, light, publicly consumed midday meal called “lunch” emerged.
This book studies the contentious history of the American lunch, and explains how divergent forces, from food processors and advertisers to social workers, doctors, government representatives and mothers, have carved out overlapping territories in the contest to influence America’s eating habits. Early chapters explore the shift from agrarianism to industrialization and the pursuant lunch revolution, and cover early reform efforts to improve lunch in schools and workplaces. Several chapters describe World War II as a watershed event for the American lunch, covering lunchtime militarization and government intrusion into daily nutrition, changing attitudes toward traditional women’s roles in food preparation, and the resulting postwar meal. Final chapters cover the “colonization” of school lunch by agribusiness, government and media, and explain how magazine and advertising treatments of lunch provision have constructed new models of femininity.

About the Author(s)

Julie L. Lautenschlager is an assistant editor at The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series at Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Bibliographic Details

Julie L. Lautenschlager
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 256
Bibliographic Info: 25 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2670-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0928-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
Preface      1
Introduction: American Eating Ideology and the Noon Meal      5

1. From Full Dinner Pails to Empty Market Baskets: The Debut and Demise of a Political Symbol      19
2. Creating E‡cient Workers and Students: Reformers Take Up the Lunch Cause      44
3. Kitchen Commandos: Government, the Media, and the “Marketing” of Food Rationing during World War II      75
4. Sharing in the Sisterhood of Sacrifice: The Recipe for a “Homogenized” Homefront Housewife      102
5. A Nutrition Victory: World War II and the Noon Meal      122
6. Staking a Claim on Lunch: Eating on the Job after World War II      145
7. Carrying Lunch to School: Players in the Institutionalization of Students’ Noon Meals      162
8. Lunch Ladies: Magazines, Advertising, and the Construction of Women as Lunch Box Packers      181

Conclusion: Blame Not the Oreo      201
Chapter Notes      217
Selected Bibliography      231
Index      241

Book Reviews & Awards

“interesting…recommended”—Choice; “unique…revealing”—William and Mary.