Friday, April 26, 2013

The School Lunch

      The school lunch is the problem. It is a subject over which mothers are waxing warm in the mothers' clubs, over which doctors are theorizing, over which teachers are fretting. It is the question of the hour in hygienic circles; and all the while the innocent little tummy accepts what is offered it, never realizing that the school lunch is disturbing grown-up heads.
      What shall young America carry in the school lunch basket?
      In the first place, doctors have firmly agreed that it shall not carry the lunch basket at all if it is a possible thing to reach home in time for a warm lunch. The cold lunch is an indigestible affair at best compared with a bowl of hot soup or a plate of steaming stew or rare steak. But what can't be made of a bad thing is worth while.
      There seems to be a vast difference between the cold lunch that is and the cold lunch that ought to be.
      Pickles and ice cream make a popular combination. You can get 5 cents' worth of pickles, chemically vinegared. You can get 5 cents' worth of ice cream at the little store next door, where they sell candy and prize packages and chewing gum and striped lead pencils. You can buy all of these if your money holds out.
      Miss Casey, principal of the Lafayette Primary School, says that she has seen this sort of thing happen many a time, sometimes in her own school and more often she has known of it in other schools when the bakeries and the candy shops were nearer. Children are started off to school without a lunch. It is too far to go home. So paper or mamma hands out a little money and says, "Buy your lunch."
Twelve o'clock has come at Redding Primary,
by Stanford
      Perhaps the amount is only a nickel or perhaps it is much larger. The more the worse in many cases. As soon as the bell has rung and the lines have passed out the proud possessor of the cost races down the street to the nearest attractive shop.
      Maybe there is a beautiful pink cake in the window with little shells of frosting all around the edge and jelly in the cracks. Maybe the loaf costs two bits and maybe the luncher has just that amount. It takes less then two minutes to own the cake and not much longer to shove it down. Here endeth the lunch and likewise here beginneth the dyspepsia.
      Or maybe it is a pie that tempts, a lemon pie, brave with billows of meringue. Heaven help young American when this is the sum total of its lunch.
      Miss Casey says that she has seen a little tot that possessed just one nickel spend it for candy and make an entire meal on the purchase. It is like the things that little girls and boys wish for in day dreams, but it is not hygienic.
      Mrs. Walker, principal of the Marshall Primary School, says: "I wish we could see the school lunch basket containing bread and jelly and good, sensible sandwiches made of lamb, roast beef or corned beef. It ought to have a bottle of milk instead of coffee. Plenty of fruit should be in it. And no cakes--none whatever. This matter of the school lunch is worth thinking about."
      All the principals and the doctors seem to say the same thing about coffee and milk. Off with the former, on with the latter. Although Miss Deane of the Redding Primary finds that her flock is inclined to the milk tipple for the most part. "On the whole they seem to bring sensible things," she says. "Sandwiches, milk and fruit are the chief articles."
      Mrs. M. M. Murphy of the Irving Scott Primary School says: "It isn't so much what is put up for the children as how it is put up that I want to find fault with. For instance, they have meat sandwiches, which sounds well enough, but some of them are enough to frighten any appetite just to look at them. Great chunks of bread on each side of an ungainly chunk of meat. Ugh! I don't see how the poor little things eat them. I know I couldn't touch a crumb of them."
      Dr. Mary Page Campbell was asked to discuss the ideal school lunch from the physician's standpoint and this is what she said:
      "It's hard to talk about the ideal basket lunch when there is nothing ideal about such a meal. Every child should go home to lunch. This is the sort of thing, however, that is a waste of breath to talk about and I am practical enough to realize that. Many children live so far from home that they cannot possibly get home, eat and return in the time allowed. Or if they do they will have to bolt the meal so rapidly that it is worse than a cold lunch.
     "In Boston the problem has been solved, or partially so, by the little lunch stations near the school buildings where soup is sold to the children for so small a sum that it is possible to all. It is good, wholesome, steaming hot soup that does the little bodies good from top to toe. This furnishes the heat which nature craves in a meal, and cold adjuncts can be carried in a basket.
      "Some day I hope to see a kettle of good soup raising a hearty steam within sight of every San Francisco school. But until that comes about we must face the problem as it stands. Hundreds of our children carry a cold lunch to school.
      "What shall the basket contain?
      "In the first place, there should be something to drink with the meal, and this something should be milk. A bottle of fresh milk can easily be put up in the morning. It is far less trouble than coffee because there is no cooking about it. Let the bottle of cold coffee be tabooed. It is absolutely unwholesome. If the child has acquired a liking for it, then the taste is unwholesome and should be overcome.
       "Let the basis of the lunch be bread and butter and sandwiches. Cut the bread thin and spread it thinly. There is a great deal in putting up a lunch daintily. Perhaps it does seem as if children are willing to eat anything, they are so much more the gourmand and less the gourmet than their parents. But nevertheless they are affected by the way their food is prepared. Their appetite will be keener and the benefit from the food greater if it is tempting instead of mussy.
      "The sandwiches may be made of good, tender meat; of cheese, or of nuts. Cheese and nuts contain an immense amount of condensed nourishment. If the little folks care for it there is not the least harm in letting them have a pickle, but it must be a good pickle; not one of the ordinary grocery store kind, put up in some kind of chemical vinegar, but one that you know is to be seasoned with pure spices and pure vinegar.
      "Now for the lunch basket cup. This cup (or, better yet a jelly glass with a tightly fitted cover) may be made the charm of the basket, for it may reveal a delightful surprise every day to tempt the young appetite. Don't say that it is too much bother to think up new dainties. Set your wits to work. The result will pay.
      "Different forms of sage, rice and tapioca can be put into the little glass jar. These may be the simplest and wholesomest puddings, slightly sweetened. They are full of nourishment and palatable as well.
      "Macaroni is another idea for your cup. It may be cooked with either tomatoes or cheese.
      A little meat pie, with a light, flaky crust, is delicious and wholesome, too. When the youngster carries this he won't need meat sandwiches. Bread and butter is enough. Try to make the parts of the lunch harmonize in this way, just as much as if you were preparing a menu for guests.
      "Mayonnaise is an article that I sometimes hear people speaking of as too rich for children. It is nothing of the kind. What could be more valuable than eggs and olive oil? Don't be so afraid of foods of this kind-- the children are not inclined to eat any great amount of them if left to their own devices. Mayonnaise is good on many kinds of sandwiches, but it is better to let the child carry it in a little cup and spread it when noon arrives, as it soaks into the bread if it stands long, becoming unpalatable.
      "Children need sweets for fuel. Remember that every morning when you pack the basket. The sweets should be furnished in very moderate quantities, but they should not be forgotten or condemned. A slice of light sponge cake or a few simple cookies are best. With the cake should be plenty of fruit, and so you have a good dessert.
      Bear in mind the value of a varied bill of fare. This involves much thought, but it is entirely possible. A cold lunch is at best, less cheerful than a meal at a table. Do your best to brighten the basket by frequent novelties. And wrap each article separately so that flavors won't mix and make an unappetizing mess of the whole." San Francisco Call, April 19, 1903

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