How did ketchup become a vegetable?
Perhaps the most impactful, and notorious, changes to the National School Lunch Program backed by food industry groups came in 1979, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) modified its menu requirements. Since its establishment in 1946, participating schools were required to serve meals that met basic nutritional requirements in order to receive funding. The recommended “Type A” meal included two ounces of protein, a three-quarters cup serving of fruits and vegetables, a half pint of milk, and a slice of whole grain bread. Under the new guidelines, however, schools could add “foods of minimal nutritional value” to their menus, so long as every 100-calorie serving offered five percent of the Recommended Daily Allowances of at least one basic nutrient. The new guidelines meant that jams, jellies, and sugary juices could be counted towards the fruit serving requirement, that cookies and corn chips could replace slices of bread, and that ketchup and relish could be counted as servings of vegetables. They also allowed cash-strapped school districts struggling with the costs of compliance to swap out fresh ingredients with processed and frozen foods that were cheaper and easier to produce. Formalized in 1980, USDA’s new nutritional guidelines undoubtedly made it easier for schools to participate in the National School Lunch Program. But they also contributed to the declining quality and nutritional value of the food served, prompting even more students to drop out of the program.
Galleries & Exhibits
- 11865-1925: Hunger in the Industrial City
- 21929-1940: America in Crisis and Recovery
- 31945-1965: WWII and the Paradoxes of the Postwar Era
- 41955-1980: The Fight for the Right to Food
- 51975-1996: The Unmaking of the Great Society
- 61997-Present: How It Is — And How It Should Be