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Nutritional guidelines and school lunches: Federal efforts to shape the American diet

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Starting in the mid-twentieth century, the US federal government played an increasingly important role in shaping food production and consumption. This paper examines how politics shapes what modern Americans ate, especially as reflected in the evolution of nutritional guidelines and the National School Lunch Program. Both initiatives assumed that the federal government had a prescriptive role in good nutrition and were based on the confidence that - with modern scientific knowledge and an industrialised food system - good nutrition and ready access to food happened by design. In addition, both nutritional guidelines and the school lunch programme viewed food as a collection of nutrients, stripped of cultural or environmental importance. The school lunch programme also had an economic goal: trying to dispose of surplus agricultural commodities created by industrial agriculture. Thus, while the school lunch programme was intended to solve an economic problem, it might have had a role in perpetuating the problem.
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Keywords: government food programmes; nutritional guidelines; school lunch

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2018

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  • The half-yearly journal Global Environment: A Journal of History and Natural and Social Sciences acts as a forum and echo chamber for ongoing studies on the environment and world history, with special focus on modern and contemporary topics. Our intent is to gather and stimulate scholarship that, despite a diversity of approaches and themes, shares an environmental perspective on world history in its various facets, including economic development, social relations, production government, and international relations.
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