These days, most of us don’t give too much thought to the reasons for school lunches, but during the Great Depression, children might have gone to school with some potato skins, a piece of bread, or even nothing at all, if their parents didn’t have enough money to get them something. Enter the school lunch program. It’s been around for so long that these days it is just part of everyday school life. The reasons aren’t what you might think. Many people think that the Great Depression had something to do with the set up of the National School Lunch Program, but that would be wrong. The National School Lunch Program started in 1946, and it was actually due to World War II.
As many people know, World War II was the second deadliest war in United States history. The loss of 405,399 American lives was second only to the Civil War, in which 618,222 American lives were lost. When a nation loses so many young men to war, there can be a concern about the future and particularly about future wars. The United States government decided to address that future deficit by giving the nation’s children free meals. The theory was that if the children were given meals with proper nutrition, there would be a healthier draft pool in the event it was ever necessary to have a draft again. That is a good idea in theory, and I’m sure that with nutritious meals they would be healthier, but it is strange to use that as a way to build an army. In a way it seems manipulative.
Why do governments always seem to have an ulterior motive…about everything they do? I suppose it’s possible for them to honestly want to help people, but when you hear things like feeding the hungry, so they will make a good army, it tends to be a really big inspiration downer. The idea that had taken shape in the first place, becomes polluted by the manipulation of the government, and suddenly it just doesn’t seem so nice. Over the years, military leaders have stood up to make sure America’s youth had proper nutrition for a healthy start in life. The military discovered that at least 40% of rejected recruits were turned away for reasons related to poor nutrition. With that, I can understand that the government wanted to help. After the war ended, the military’s Selective Service Director, General Lewis Hershey, gave a speech that helped win passage of the National School Lunch Program in 1946.
Now, Seventy years later, the program is still a very important part of the healthy eating habits of a great number of children. School nutrition remains a national security concern. Many children consume up to half of their daily calories at school. That said, it stands to reason that healthier school nutrition will be a driving force for lowering obesity, which is the leading medical reason why more than 70 percent of the nation’s young adults cannot qualify for military service. I am not opposed to making children’s lives better, but I just don’t like the manipulation that was involved.