The medical examination of draftees showing physical deficiencies related to malnutrition has emphasized the great importance of proper feeding of children during periods of growth. Educators are also aware of the facts demonstrating the relationship between poor feeding and fatigue, depression, and lack of alertness. One great opportunity for improvement in the health of school children lies in the proper development and use of the school cafeteria or lunchroom. The educator is concerned with the possibilities of this development through several sources:
1. Federal agencies have developed the program for feeding indigent children at school to the extent of approximately 5,000,000 children for the year 1940-1941. The School Lunch Division of the Works Progress Association, operating through state and local supervision, is responsible for this program, in cooperation with local sponsors, such as Boards of Education, Parent-Teacher Associations, or other civic-minded groups. Another federal agency cooperating in the feeding of indigent school children is the Surplus Commodities Marketing Corporation, through which surplus foods are distributed to school lunch centers. These commodities are supplemented through sponsor funds to provide complete and adequate daily lunches.
2. The development of consolidated schools and closed sessions in urban schools has brought about a rapid increase in school cafeterias. In these cafeterias children purchase their meals, selecting their whole lunches or supplementing lunches brought from home, with meals often inferior in nutritive value to those provided for the indigent children. Classroom teaching dealing with nutrition and proper food must be supplemented by close coordination with the cafeteria and its wide use as a teaching agency. Approximately 85 per cent of the school cafeterias in small schools are under the direction of the home economics teacher. In large schools the health education program should include the cafeteria manager who does not carry other academic duties. Indigent children are fed in these cafeterias without discrimination and without the realization by other children that they are receiving their food free.
3. Educational uses of the cafeteria other than those immediately connected with student health are numerous and varied, including illustrations for courses in economics, geography, physics, chemistry, and art.
4. Parents are always interested in the food which their children may get at school. Numerous methods of educating parents in the proper food for their children, including the noon meal, may be developed through the cafeteria, thus improving community health through improved nutrition.
5. A defense opportunity for use of school cafeterias is apparent in several communities in which industries have attracted numbers of men without families. In these communities there are no adequate facilities for feeding these men. Within the plants makeshift arrangements for lunch are made wherever possible, but local restaurants are unable to take care of these defense workers for breakfast and the evening meals. The school cafeteria offers a well-equipped unit for the feeding of workers at times when it is not needed by the school children. The fact that it is practically impossible to get prompt delivery of food service equipment makes the cafeteria, which is a going food service unit, of particular value to the community in this emergency.