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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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School Lunches

School Lunches

GRHC - February 13th, 2011

Grand Rapids Central High School tries an experimental school lunch program in 1902.    



An experimental lunch program at Central High School began during January of 1902. Many parents and teachers felt that students would benefit from a hot lunch, especially during the winter months. Since the school served a large area of the city, it was impossible for many students to go home for the noon meal.

The cost of setting up the lunch room, which included plumbing arrangements, a gas stove, and a refrigerator, cost the district about $250. Forty to fifty students could be seated around a counter, shaped like a hollow square with one end open to access the area where food was prepared. It was first-come, first-served, and those waiting for lunch hovered behind the lucky students who had already grabbed a seat.

A sample menu from 1903 included: roast veal, potato salad, apple sauce, and bread and butter, available for 12 cents. That menu plus bean soup cost 17 cents. Individual items could be purchased: the popular hot sandwiches with roast meat and gravy cost 5 cents; orange custard, also 5 cents; or apple sauce, just 2 cents.

In a newly expanded lunch room, during February of 1917, the lunch staff planned to feed about 300 students. A winter storm that blanketed the city caused many students to remain at school, and almost one thousand appeared for lunch. By the end of the lunch hour the coffee was thin and the portions skimpy, but the students’ disappointment vanished when their teachers were recruited to help wash and dry all the dirty dishes.


Full Details

TitleSchool Lunches
KeywordsGlance at the Past, history, school lunch, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission, radio, Podcast
Pubdate StringFebruary 13th, 2011

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