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School Lunch Politics: The Surprising History of America's Favorite Welfare Program (Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America)

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ISBN-13: 978-0691050881
ISBN-10: 0691050880
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Editorial Reviews


"A comprehensive examination of school lunches' complex history from the birth of home economics and food as a nutritional science to the arrival of vending machines in cafeterias."--Eliza Krigman, The Nation

"[T]his book is an admirable history of the political landscape of school lunch, setting the stage for future scholarship on this rich and intriguing topic. . . . Levine's book is a fine study of the history of school lunch vis-a-vis welfare programs and politics."--Amy Bentley, American Historical Review

"[Susan Levine] traces the [school lunch] program back to the Progressive Era, when localized charities distributed school lunches as a way to counteract malnutrition. But over the course of the program's lifetime, the interests of the agricultural and commercial food industries have largely superseded those of students. Levine provides an in-depth look at how such factors as early nutritionists' disdain for Italian cooking have led to the ubiquitous greasy pizza of today's school cafeteria."--Education Week

"Levine chronicles the history of what she describes as the most popular--yet flawed and poorly understood--social welfare program in the US: The National School Lunch Program. . . . While studies in the politics of food have become popular in the last decade, as have studies of welfare, Levine's work stands out for linking these two areas of inquiry."--M. J. Garrison, Choice

"Levine has succeeded in writing the rare policy history that is also a page turner. Her engaging and at times witty prose tells a story of food science, agricultural surplus, gender, race, and the welfare state. She puts a human face on the policy makers in this story, if not the recipients of free lunches."--Meghan K. Winchell, Reviews in American History

"Susan Levine's highly readable and politically astute history of the school lunch program explains why things have not worked out as well for that program. The answer Levine provides in this book is quite sobering. Perhaps, the more people read books like Susan Levine's, the more citizens can empower themselves to push past those constraints and begin to address the fundamental inequities that persist in the U.S."--Sanford Schram, Teachers College Record

"This book is an excellent resource for FCS professionals involved in food and nutrition, as well as those interested in the early work of Ellen Richards. The illustrations and tables are helpful."--Claudia A. Engelmeier, Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences

"[G]iven Levine's thorough account of the political events that shaped the century-long history of American school lunch programs, it is likely that they will find plenty of useful references as they seek to solve the dilemma Levine describes: how to serve up balanced meals with available resources, while attending to economic and racial inequalities. Above all, we are left convinced that school lunch is everyone's problem, one way or another."--Sharron Dalton, Gastronomica

"Historians of education should find it to be a provocative study that questions the role of the public school in a new and interesting way."--Jayne R. Beilke, H-Net Reviews

From the Back Cover

"With School Lunch Politics, Sue Levine has served up a rich plate on which the histories of food, public policy, childhood, and social reform come together in complicated, intermingling ways. The result is a capacious and balanced book about the elusive quest for an equitable society and a balanced meal."--Daniel Horowitz, author of The Anxieties of Affluence

"School Lunch Politics tells the fascinating history of the National School Lunch Program, which officially began in 1946 and continues to this day. This is an important book and will be valuable for many audiences. It should receive attention not only from historians (especially historians of twentieth-century social policy) but also a broader audience interested in the current obesity crisis and the commercialization of public life. Any reader of Fast Food Nation will love this book."--Robyn Muncy, University of Maryland


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Product Details

  • Series: Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (March 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691050880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691050881
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,002,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By snow violet on February 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We are all familiar with school lunch, but who knew of the politics behind it! I have a degree in political science, worked in the state legislature on securing funding for school lunch and now work as a consultant for a major national manufacturer of breakfast products used in school breakfast; and I was amazed to learn of the intricate and socially sensitive politics involved in the establishment and continuation of the school lunch/breakfast programs. Never would I have contemplated that school lunch politics (funding, mandates, oversight etc) would be so closely related to US race relations or national defense. This book is well researched and well written. A must read for anyone who supports school lunch/breakfast or has an interest in the politics/history of social programs.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book for all of those interested in school nutrition programs; how they came about and the various complimentary and competing forces that have driven them for nearly 100 years. I particularly recommend it for policymakers, social historians, political scientists, and parents of school-age children. Levine captures the many factors that influence our current school nutrition policies in a straightforward and thoroughly readable format that offers insights into how social policy is formed and evolves. I highly recommend this book, especially to program critics who too often neither understand nor appreciate the practical and political necessity of maintaining the complimentary and contradictory goals that have influenced school nutrition policies since the New Deal, and made them a continuing challenge for school food program operators trying to meet such goals.
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By T R on January 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Interesting history. Lunch in schools came about because of National Security. A quick and interesting book. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the current debate on school lunches.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Reed on March 16, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very concise and interesting history of the American school lunch program. Provided a lot of evidenced-based research and historical fact that I'd never before heard.
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