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The Hot Lunch Plan

As many Nebraska students head off for school, they'll check the newspaper to see "what's for
lunch." The hot lunch program has become a taken-for-granted feature of most Nebraska
schools. The federal government developed the current subsidized school nutrition program
shortly after World War II. But long before the government got involved, teachers and
parents worked to come up with a workable hot lunch plan, particularly for rural schools.

Some rural students enjoyed a warm meal as part of the "pint jar plan." The Sarpy County
reported in 1930, "Of about 400 boys and girls already enrolled in hot lunch
work in Nebraska, 132 are working on the new 1929 plan. Each pupil brings to school in
addition to the cold lunch, some nutritious food already prepared and placed in his own pint
fruit jar. These jars of food are placed in a kettle of warm water at school and heated for the
hot portions of the school lunches.

"The pint jar eliminates the largest part of the labor which it requires when the hot dish is
prepared at school each morning. At recess time the kettle containing the jars of food is set
on the stove and by noon the food is hot for serving. Usually each pupil brings a cup or bowl
and a spoon in the lunch box each day. The dishes are then taken home at night to be

"The pint jar plan" was a far cry from today's school lunch program, but it provided a much
needed change from the cold sandwich lunch many students ate daily throughout the school


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Last updated 14 September 2005

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