1919 High School Lunch Menus

eight lunch menus
Source: American Cookery (October, 1919)

Does anyone like school lunches? I hear both parents and their children complain about them. According to my local school district’s website, today’s high school menu is:

Menu – October 24, 2019

Main: Italian Entree Choice
Grill: Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Salad: Italian Entree Choice

Smart Sides: Caesar Salad, Celery Sticks

But, is it worse than school lunches a hundred years? Somehow I just can’t imagine students today getting excited about Jellied Salmon.

49 thoughts on “1919 High School Lunch Menus

  1. Well, it looks better than a sample menu, dug out of my memory, for an English girls’ grammar school, c.1958. Spam fritters, mashed potato, cabbage. Spotted Dick and custard. Hungry, anyone?

  2. I noticed that jellied salmon right away. Two thoughts came to mind: it must have been cheaper then, and, ‘jellied’? I can’t imagine that passing muster today for anyone: at least, not for me. Say ‘school lunch’ to me, and the first thing that comes to mind is sloppy joes. The lunchroom always got down to business when those were served.

    1. I went to a public school, but we generally had fish on Fridays. Back then I really liked fish sticks and fish fillets – so I always looked forward to the Friday lunches.

  3. Jellied salmon?! ick, ick, ick. Preparing food for a whole school must be really difficult but I have no fond memories of cafeteria food at all. Except maybe the little cups of ice cream and the tiny wooden spoons that came with them . . .

  4. I had the same thoughts on the jellied salmon and Spotted Dick. I have seen the Spotted Dick in our grocery store and it is in a can. That just adds to the mystery.

    I was on a college visit with my daughter to my school and we ate in a school cafeteria. It was still just as bad. It was my only source of food in school and I never gained a pound.

    1. I didn’t care much for the cafeteria food when I was a child – but I guess I should be thankful that at least we didn’t get vegetables encased in jello.

  5. I’m not a big fan of anything “jellied” but overall the menus don’t look too bad. There seems to be something for every kind of palate! I don’t remember high school (Ii think we went home for lunch) but college was another thing when I lived in the dorms.

  6. Interesting choices in that old menu.It goes to show the extra time they took with the foods. I didn’t give school lunches much thought until high school when they had Pizza day. Lol They made a fortune on Pizza day. Kids that normally didn’t spend money on anything but chips and soda-pop, out of the snack machines, would stand in line and eagerly await their turn to buy a slice of pizza. We all loved it. 😀

  7. My dad would have been five years old in 1919. As far as I know, my parents always took their lunch to school. Did that mean they were satisfied with what they had? My heavens! No! Dad told about his mother who was an older parent. She was thin as a rail and prepared dainty lunches. The worst, according to him, was a pineapple and cheese sandwich on white bread. He thought he’d won a jackpot when he persuaded a farm boy to swap his hearty lunch of biscuits and country ham.

    1. Yuck – pineapple and cheese on white bread seems like a strange combination. I see the term “dainty foods” from time to time in hundred-year-old magazines. I have the impression that lighter foods (that often seem strange now) were very trendy back then.

          1. No license was required, but he took the car out while his parents were away! He was staying with his first cousin next door. He had watched his dad teach his mom to drive, and that’s how he knew what to do. He and his cousin drove around all weekend. When the gas was low, he pulled into the gas station and told the attendant to fill it up and charge it to his dad. Everyone knew everyone else in the small town, so the tank was filled. My dad was a character!

    1. This was the era when large consolidated high schools were being built in many areas. The new large high schools could offer many courses and tracks (academic, business, etc.). I think that the students in home economics classes in these schools sometimes prepared (or helped prepare) the school lunches.

  8. Junket.. now that word brings back memories! I loved when mom would make a big bowl of junket! Wonder if one can still buy junket tablets… Never had to chose from a school lunch menu… a packed lunch is all I knew. Now off to google junket tablets😁

    1. Your comment reminds me of how the teachers used to say that we should eat all the food because there were starving children in Africa. I never could quite follow the logic of those statements.

  9. We didn’t have a canteen in primary school. If you lived close enough, you had to walk home for lunch. Everyone else sat in a sort of hall and ate a lunch they had brought. I always wished I didn’t have to walk home every lunch time.

  10. There are two meals on there that look good and one that I don’t know what it is. But all in all there’s some weird stuff on there. But I was just telling my husband the other day that I used to pick up my school lunch sit down at the table smell the food and then get up and throw everything on the tray away. Sorry for the lack of commas.

  11. I was surprised that such comprehensive school lunches were available in 1919. I remember being served junket at boarding school in the 60s. I was hungry so I ate it but it was far from pleasant to my taste buds.

    1. In the early 1900s many large high schools were built in the U.S. – and they typically had a cafeteria. In some cases, the students in home economics classes would help prepare the food.

  12. Since I am hungry right now, Sheryl, everything on the menu looks good:) You are right on the jellied salmon. Green pea soup used to be popular not too long ago. I don’t see Cool whip anywhere, likely a good thing. A lot of fun to see 100 years ago:)

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