“Lunch counter at the Boston Latin School, circa 1890.” From Rumford Kitchen Leaflets 1899. Ellen Swallow Richards Digital Library, MIT Museum.

In 1890, Ellen Swallow Richards partnered with a fellow home economist to establish the New England Kitchen of Boston. Designed as a model for food safety and sanitation, the New England Kitchen also applied the principles of home economics to feed hungry children. With the support of wealthy Bostonians, New England Kitchen operated the first free school lunch program, offering scientifically developed meals that maximized energy, nutrition, and sanitation. Within five years, the program fed 5,000 students per day across the city and by 1918, similar school lunch programs had emerged in 86 American cities.

Levine, Susan. “School Lunch Politics: The Surprising History of America’s Favorite Welfare Program.” Princeton University Press, 2008: 22.

New England Kitchen of Boston