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From Middle America to the Inner City: How the National School Lunch Program Became Black in the 1960s and 1970s

Parsons, Amanda

In the late 1960s, the National School Lunch Program entered the politics of poverty and emerged a "black" program. Liberal politicians and black leaders replaced Southern Democrats and farming interests as the main proponents of school lunches, and a series of legislative changes transformed the National School Lunch Program into an anti-poverty and social welfare initiative. With these legislative changes, the clientele of the school lunch program shifted from middle-class children to low-income children and, in particular, African-American children. With black leaders advocating for school lunches and black children comprising a disproportionate number of program participants, the American public and media began to associate the National School Lunch Program with African-Americans. Once school lunches became radicalized in public perception, they also became stigmatized. More and more, the media linked school lunches to AFDC and food stamps, portraying school lunches as part of the problem of the "welfare trap" and the "welfare queen." The school lunch program's involvement in the politics of poverty in the late 1960s and early 1970s did not simply make school lunches anti-poverty—it made school lunches black, stigmatized and, ultimately, a lesser priority for American lawmakers.

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History
Degree
B.A., Columbia University
Published Here
May 14, 2010

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Senior thesis.

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