COBWEB CORNERS: School lunches over the years

By Mel McFarland

       As a school teacher, I spent some time in the lunch room, watching many a child's mid- day meal. Over the years, the “school lunch” certainly changed. When I started, most schools had their own kitchens and the food was prepared right there. As budgets tightened, a central kitchen became the norm. In addition, the number of vending machines and fast food selections increased. Children being children, those with available cash soon learn that a soft drink and chips is quicker and more fun than what may actually be good for them. Well, that has something to do with today's subject.
       What about before the lunch programs started? It was not quite 100 years ago that nutrition actually became a concern of most schools. In the winter it could be a challenge for parents to provide their children with well-balanced meals. In many places, lunch was supplemented by teachers who would brew a pot of soup on their room stove. Easily carried items like sandwiches - made from fresh meats, cheeses, and butter and jelly - were quite common. Many of the breads were rolls or buns made at home, each depending upon the skill of the mother. Salads, slaws and fruit were also regular parts of the meal, if not the entire meal. The fruit was commonly canned, or dried. Fresh fruit was not anywhere as available as it is now. Oatmeal, molasses and bran were common types of cookies one might find in a lunch.
       One things missing here, Milk! The handling of milk was a real problem. Getting it to school was difficult. There might be small bottles around, or small jars or pails with lids. In the country it was usually fresh, right from the cow, but it could go bad pretty quick. Many modern inventions were the result of needing a good lunch, the Thermos bottle being just one. Now, this is actually somewhat recent. How about even farther back?
       Next time you have lunch away from home, consider the problems involved without many of today's conveniences.