The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 19, 2014

Extension helped start school lunch program

By Jessica Nickels, columnist
Enid News & Eagle

— Nutrition is constantly a hot topic, and we as Extension educators are always educating consumers on new research as it is available. Focusing on nutrition and the health of the county is nothing new for Extension. Extension Home Demonstration Clubs were instrumental across the nation in getting the National School Lunch Act passed. In 1946, President Harry S. Truman began the national school lunch program as a measure of national security. He did so after reading a study that revealed many young men had been rejected from the World War II draft due to medical conditions caused by childhood malnutrition. Since that time, more than 180 million lunches have been served to American children who attend either a public school or a non-profit private school. The purpose of the program was to safeguard the health and well-being of the nation’s children and to encourage the consumption of agricultural abundance. That year, the county Extension clubs made school nutrition their main focus.

The clubs assisted in starting the school lunch program in six schools. The Carrier Junior Home Economics Club was one of the first clubs to sponsor a school lunch program. They felt that the girls and boys should be given the privilege of having a complete hot meal at noon. With the school board’s help, the woman turned one of the school buildings that was used to store “junk” into a kitchen and place to serve the children. The first year, they cooked for 120 students until the school hired full time help. Eventually, the club purchased a steam table for the lunch room, as well as all the cooking utensils and dishes.

During the year, the school was sent surplus foods by the war food administration. When these foods were given to the lunch room, the club women canned them to be used later in the lunches. During the year, they canned 200 quarts of apple sauce, 100 quarts of beets and carrots, 44 quarts of pears, 40 quarts of kraut and 60 quarts of other fruit.

The Drummond school lunch program is one that was started by the Del Norte Home Demonstration Club. This school lunch program was one of the outstanding lunch programs by Garfield County, and because of its efficiency, was selected as one of the four best school lunch programs in Oklahoma at the time. Because of this success, money was set aside and many improvements were made to the lunch room during the summer months. This included a fresh coat of paint, new tables and a serving counter.

Today, Extension is still working with school nutrition programs. There have recently been major changes to the school lunch guidelines. Extension Educators across the state teamed up with the State Department of Education Child Nutrition to conduct classes to educate school nutrition staff on how to implement these changes in to their schools.

Nickels, MS, RD/LD, is Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service Family and Consumer Sciences educator for Garfield County.