"It happens every noon"

My husband enjoys watching old government films for laughs. He’s the kinda guy that trolls the Prelinger Archives for old gems (like “How to keep a job” -1949). Most of the films are pretty campy.

Anyway, he told me about a government film about school lunch made in 1966 entitled “It happens every noon.” There are so many things wrong about this film (too many to list) so please do not think I endorse anything related to this movie in terms of subject matter. That aside it did gave me some insight into the beginnings of National School Lunch program and what students ate in the 1960’s. Sadly it looks like school lunches have gone downhill in the past 40 years.

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29 thoughts on “"It happens every noon"

  1. My husband loves those old films. He has some of the "health" films, which are hilarious and scary all at the same time. 🙂

  2. The "oven-fresh cake" looks good! Made me want dessert. I recently read an article that traced the school lunch program back to World War II, when the government was shocked at how many young men had to be refused entrance to the service because of problems related to malnutrition.

  3. I agree; there are so many things wrong about this film! At least real people were actually preparing and packaging the food though. Sadly, I think those days are gone for most kids in this country.

  4. I wish they would do something similar to what Jamie Oliver did and have real people cooking real food for kids in schools. What you are eating is appalling… and therefore so is what is being fed to America's children.

  5. Thanks for the link to the archives and "it happens every noon" It is striking to see all of the thin children and adults! As funny and dated this film is — it is also filled with common sense that many seem to have forgotten. "You can't teach a hungry child" and "A child cannot live on snack food" Yet today's school lunches consist of hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and pizza. What happened?

    I let my child who is in kindergarten buy lunch once or twice a week. She enjoys going through the lunch line and I hope I am teaching her about making good food choices. I am able to see online what she purchases, which gives me some peace of mind. Our rule is that she has the main course, a fruit or vegetable, and milk. At home my kids love fruit and veg and often eat that part of their meal first. At school the kids are served either whole pieces of fruit or canned fruit. My 5 year old at first didn't even recognize the canned fruit and complained that she doesn't have time to prepare/eat a whole orange or apple during their short lunch time. She solved this problem by choosing the trail mix — this consists of marshmallows, fruit loops, and raisins. What nutritional value does this serve?? Definitely not part of the 1960's Type A lunch! (she now chooses the canned fruit, which she still doesn't think is real fruit)

  6. This videa may be outdated, but it's appalling how far we've fallen from these times. Look at how thin and healthy looking these children were – yes there are ranges in sizes, but you definitely didn't see any of the obesity epidemic we now see in schools. My grandmother was a school cook – I wish she was still around because I would love to hear more about her experiences. I know our school populations are huge (or larger than these times), but it makes little sense to me why real people can't prepare real food for our children. Why does everything have to be preprocessed? But then again as you watch this video you see very little "gabbing" and there's definitely a sense of eating etiquette – all things that seem to have been washed away because of the fear of disciplining someones child. Thanks for sharing – my children aren't of school age, but this definitely makes me think that I will be active in what the school is serving them.

  7. I LOVE THIS BLOG. I just found it, and I think it is one of the best ideas I have heard in a long time. I want to start something like you have. I am sooo appauled by the food they feed to our children. I am getting my masters this year in media effects on children's nutrition! I want to become a teacher though, so I can help educate kids about healthy living. A long term goal of mine is to get changes made to our schools locally (i live in a very small town, and the lunches are particularily bad … odd since we have farms with fresh produce EVERYWHERE)

    I wish you luck on your journey, and I cant wait to keep reading.

    you are SO BRAVE! I don't think I could stomach any of that stuff … nor did I while I was in school! Its super bad because some kids, if they are like me, just wont eat it at all!

  8. It's interesting that you say that school lunches have gone downhill. When I was in grade school, about 25 years ago, I frequently had hot lunches and they were good, hot, and well-balanced. We always had a salad bar, some days we had a taco salad bar.

    I currently work at a school but we don't have hot lunches. The school we share a site with does and their menu is much more varied than what you have shown. They also have a salad bar.

    In addition, they have recess, every day, twice a day. I think that crappy lunches and no recess isn't an across the board thing!

  9. I am a fraternity chef in Kansas. I found this blog on FraternityKitchen.net. I have 5 children and like all of the people commenting on this and many other food blogs, I am appalled! I am ready to do something drastic. My children attend a Catholic school, yet they still participate in the school lunch program. Our school goes from K-8. For one week, the junior high kids boycotted lunch. Guess what-they were told how disrespectful it was to the cooks and that they should apologize. They got her attention, though. They all made suggestions and a few changes were made. I can honestly say-I prepare 40 meals twice a day for grown men for about $3-4 per person, per meal. The meals I prepare are not prepackaged, processed unidentifiable piles of mush on a table. Good food will take more time in the kitchen, but any school cook should visit a restaurant to check out portions and productivity. A sample menu item for my dream 'school lunch' could be…tuna casserole, with peas in it, a homemade roll or a purchased roll, a green salad made with handwashed greens, carrots, tomato, onion, and a small muffin or slice of cake-homemade of cours. Scratch cooking is very inexpensive. I understand that it is unlikely that our schools will seek out organic or local produce, but food service can provide ingredients to get food back to basics. My children love black olives whole. How easy is it to open a big can of those. They are nutritious and have essential oils. They need to be exposed to flavors that don't originate in an MSG bottle or salt bottle.
    I challenge all of us to come up with a plan to boycott school lunches nationwide for one week! It would make national news and someone will have to start listening. The recess issue is horrendous and I have to say, I might find it difficult to work in that environment. I believe that to be abuse. This is a form of brainwashing, at the risk of sounding too fanatical. I would homeschool before allowing that for my children. Do the parents support that or have they given up, or do simply not care…? I'm quite curious!
    Thanks for letting me vent on this forum! Anyone with me? Let's do it!

  10. Hi Fed Up, I have been following your blog with great interest for about a month now. I am a lunchlady in a somewhat small school district in upstate NY. Our schools are split into 3 and the only real cooking facilities are at the high school. Every day they bus us what we need. I do make alot of things on site in one oven and serve from a 2 bay steamtable. The size of our kitchen is very small and cramped. Believe it or not our students come into our kitchen, get their food and go back to the classrooms and eat at their desks. This is 44 years after the film "It Happens at Noon" was made and then the narrator seemed appalled that the kids did this. I will follow you for the rest of the year and am sure will have other things to say. I just had to congratulate you for this blog and thank you. I wish everyone could see it. By the way, I am amazed at the poor quality of food that is served at your school and also at the prepackaging of it all. Do they cook the food in the boxes it is served in?

  11. This blog and the comments are such an important place for us to have a meeting of the minds! I'm really happy when I read all the passionate comments from people who care about kids and what they eat. Mrs. Q, don't doubt that you are bringing a very important topic out in the open for discussion and action.
    My local high school is starting a garden, and I've volunteered to help with that and classes on cooking and eating well. I did this because of this blog.

    Thank you Mrs. Q, and all you commenters!

  12. I saw this article today (I work in higher education and this is one of the many blogs that I read) and thought you might be interested:


    You may also be interested in this from the USDA. Obviously this blog concentrates on school lunches, but the issue of lack of access to good/healthy food is an issue all across the country for children AND adults.


  13. Christie, you've actually made a suggestion that would work within the regulations for a school lunch.

    One of the 4 meal planning options (Food Based, Enhanced) requires 2 ounces of meat/meat alternate, a total of 3/4 cup fruit/vegetable (from at least 2 sources) plus an additional 1/2 cup per week, milk, and 12 servings of bread/bread alternate per week, at least one serving per day (These regulations are for grades k-6.)

    The tuna casserole would need to contain 2 ounces of tuna (meat) and 1/4 cup peas (fruit/vegetable) per serving. If you wanted to count the noodles as 1 bread serving, each serving would have to include 1/2 cup noodles.

    The bread/roll would need to weigh .9 ounce to count as a serving of bread.

    The salad could fulfill the 1/2 cup serving of fruit/vegetable.

    As for the muffin – a corn muffin would need to weigh 1.1 ounces to count as one serving, any other muffin would need to weigh 1.8 ounces. Cake, unfrosted, 2.7 ounces to equal 1 serving, frosted cake would need to weigh 4 ounces to equal 1 serving.

    You'd need to offer 8 ounces fluid milk.

    Now, all that said…would tuna casserole be a menu item that elementary age children would choose & eat? That's where the education and guidance would need to come into play.

  14. I just started reading today-what a brilliant idea! I used to visit my son in the elementary school lunchroom and was appalled at the quality of the school lunches I saw there- the food was so bad that much was wasted. This opinion was confirmed when I started substitute teaching- I would not eat cafeteria food- too unpleasant. My son has now spent 9 years in public school and has always brought lunch from home- with homemade bread, fruit, tasty leftovers in a thermos…It has not been that hard to do. I think every parent should be required to eat several school lunches a year, just to see what their kids are being served. I feel most for poor parents to whom these lunches are necessary- the poorest, most nutritionally vulnerable kids are getting the worst food.

  15. Judy – "nutritionally vulnerable" is the perfect way to describe these students. thank you to all for your comments!

  16. It's ironic how the only overweight child in the film was the one eating a hot dog "off" school property while today, there are countless overweight kids who eat hot dogs and other highly processed foods "on" school property.
    Another irony: We don't allow kids (or adults) to watch TV in school, smoke cigarettes, or drink alcohol yet administrators think it's okay for children to eat a school diet that we all know is downright dangerous to their health.
    I pack my kids school lunches almost every day to make sure they're getting good quality, fresh, and flavorful foods. Though our high school food is far superior to those served in the middle and elementary schools, I still worry about just where the food comes from.

  17. This isn't about food but, I do love old PSAs and my favorite has got to be "Boys Beware". Look up the long version on youtube, I hope your husband will enjoy it : )

  18. I pack lunch for my kids every day. If they forget to bring their lunch box home, I might make them buy the next day. They act like I told them to go into the playground and scoop up a shovel of dirt for their lunch when I say they need to buy. That happened yesterday and my daughter reported that she'd had the hot dog, which didn't look like a hot dog (and she described it in rather sordid detail) but it tasted okay. I'm glad she brings her lunch most days…
    I really think that eating well and getting enough sleep are very important, not only to health, but to learning and even to just being a nice person.
    Mom of 3

  19. Even the title "It Happens Every Noon" is interesting. At my daughter's high school lunch runs from 10 AM to 1:30 PM. Timing of supper is a challenge when one has the early lunch and the other the late lunch. The length of time for lunch is a problem as well. Generally students must wolf the food down to free up the facility.

  20. Amazing. Back then, every food did not have high fructose corn syrup and a host of unpronounceable additives, so even the white bread and canned peaches were probably healthier than what kids get today in school lunches.

    A lot of kids in the film would have gone hungry without their school lunch program, just as many children do today. With the foods you and your students are eating in this cafeteria, though, not sure what you're getting is much better than nothing. They seem designed to end up in the trash bin uneaten.

    The foods you show us are so high in sugar and fats, so highly processed, it's little more than empty calories. I wonder if you all experience a sugar high, followed by the inevitable crash and stupor a short while later.

  21. Maggie,
    Wow! You have that measurement thing figured out. I had no idea that all of that went into a tiny little lunch on a child's plate.
    Our children have been reduced to 2 ounces of meat. I find this cookie cutter mentally ignorant. No child has the same needs. And unfortunately, many of these needs are met with a prepackaged, breaded piece of processed meat.
    I just saw an ad for the new program by Jamie Oliver. I am very excited to see it. I believe that most cooks in school kitchens would like to make changes, but are faced with issues of budget, state requirements, staffing, and time. It is my hope that we can come up with a plan to help them.


  22. @ anon @8:23am
    I agree. When I was in school sometimes I ate at 10 am and sometimes at 1:30! If I ate early, I wasn't hungry and by the end of the day I had nothing (or very little) to eat and would come home and pig out on snacks. When I ate late, I was starving so during the periods right before lunch I was distracted and tired, as were all the other students.
    Unfortunately not much can be done about the timing, but it is another issue.

  23. "Teenage girls are the most poorly fed of any group in the nation, alarming isn't it when you consider their future jobs as wives and mothers." Soooo old school.

    But other than that, a very interesting film! It is amazing how all of those kids were fed relatively healthy meals, what the heck happened?

  24. Haha, yeah the "wives and mothers" thing had me laughing too. And the "Look at that guy, he looks like he could afford to skip a meal or three.". He wasn't even that fat..

    And some of the videos they would show in health classes about gay people were HORRIBLE. It's no wonder gays were so hated in the 60's if these are what the kids were being shown.


  25. The most notable part of that film was that the lunches were made right on site by real human beings with real hands from fresh basic ingredients, not in some big mysterious factory where mostly it's machines and highly processed chemicals that, when done, resemble food, but in reality is surely something else. True, the 1966 ingredients could have been even better, but few knew of anything but white bread and iceberg in those days anyway.

    Other than the very clearly pre-civil rights racist divide depicted in the film (all black cooking staff serving an all white student population) that cafeteria looked very much like the one I used when I was in grade school in the 70's. All our food was made in house (even in HS) (except the odd fruit cup here or there but usally even that was from big cans transferred to portions in bowls).

    Even in the mid-90's. when I dated a woman who worked for the local school lunch program, they made most of their food in house rather than serve all this pre-made, prepacked and frozen/reheated crap your school serves. Their pizza was of the frozen variety, but the kind that comes in big boxes and is cooked on sheet pans, not the individually packaged stuff like you school has. And my Ex used to bring the leftover pizza home and I quite liked it. I don't know what the local school lunch program is like today (no kids) but I fear it is now as bad as your own.

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