Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

School Lunches from the 1950s Housewife

on September 19, 2022
(Illustration by Arthur Sarnoff)

Providing a hearty, healthy, nutritious lunch in a clean, sanitary lunch box or other container for both hubby and the kids was a housewife’s daily duty in the 1950s. The guidelines included the following:

  1. “It should be abundant in amount for a hungry, healthy individual. A little too much is better than too little.”
  2. “It should be chosen with regard to nutritive needs of the individual, and in relation to the whole day’s food.”
  3. “It should be clean, appetizing, wholesome, and attractive.”

Food Selection

Solids and liquids were both included in the lunch plan. Guidelines urged housewives to choose at least one item from each of the following groups:

Milk — in food, such as pudding, or drink.

Bread — whole grain used in sandwiches.

Meat, Cheese, Eggs, or Fish — used in sandwich fillings, salads, or main dishes. Left over meat loaf, pot roast, and other food items were often used in sandwiches in the 1950s.

Fruit — whole or diced in salads or desserts.

Vegetables — used in sandwich fillings, salads, main dishes, or whole. Crisp, raw vegetables preferred.

Surprise – cookies, nuts, raisins, or other special treat.

What Season is it?

~ In winter, include something hot, such as soup, coffee, tea, or hot chocolate in a thermos.

~ In summer, include cool, refreshing items such as lemonade, fruit juice, iced tea, or iced coffee in a thermos.


*Remember to include utensils, napkins, and straws.*

*Provide spicier, more flavorful food for hubby and milder but flavorful food for the kids.*

*The goal in the 1950s was to keep packed lunches appetizing, varied, and balanced nutritionally.


Cream of tomato soup

Ham sandwich with mustard and lettuce

Celery sticks and olives

Fresh pear



Cheese sandwich with ketchup and lettuce

Tossed vegetable salad and dressing


Whole orange


Hot cocoa


(The first lunch box set was produced by the Aladdin Company in 1950 and featured Hopalong Cassidy.)

The National School Lunch Act, signed into law by President Harry Truman in 1946, provides school lunches in public schools for a fee or for free. I don’t know nowadays how many kids still bring their lunches to school. I remember kids getting teased when they reached a certain age who still brought their lunches to school. My favorite part of lunch in school was the chocolate milk that came with the cafeteria lunch. And, in high school, we used to sneak off campus and hit the local Taco Bell. Many adults eat in the company cafeteria, if one is provided, or order fast food. But some adults still bring their lunches to work.


Information retrieved from The American Woman’s Cook Book, 1952 and the Internet.

Dawn Pisturino

September 19, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

33 responses to “School Lunches from the 1950s Housewife

  1. spwilcen says:

    Ah yes, the old lunch pail.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Belladonna says:

    I love the the corniness of the packed lunch! My kids have never eaten a school lunch because Inlibe knowing they are having a healthy well planned meal. LOL
    Then they started complaining ifnInsaid oh just have a school lunch today. You would think I had told them to jump out in traffic. Lol

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] Source: School Lunches from the 1950s Housewife | Dawn Pisturino’s Blog […]

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Eileen Clark says:

    1950 school lunch from Mom ~ peanut butter and jelly on white Wonder bread, small carton milk, 1 banana or 4 graham crackers.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I remember those old lunchboxes with Batman, or Superman or some kind of cartoon character…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. utahan15 says:

    mine was superman!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love the surprise part, where you have some cookies you can eat after the lunch

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Robert J Jr. says:

    A blast from the past here Dawn!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Michele Lee says:

    The tip about providing “spicier, more flavorful food for hubby” made me laugh. I had a Mork and Mindy lunch box in elementary school. School lunches were disgusting!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Kirsten says:

    A lunch like this would be great! I’ve been making my kids lunch for some time now, I may take some tips from this. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Tanooki says:

    A lot of people compliments for lunchbox called obento from my home country, Japan, but I always admired brown lunch bag filled with PB & J sandwich and a whole fruit either banana or apple…when I finally got it from my host mother, I was like “OMG, it’s just like the one from the movie!!🀩”

    Liked by 2 people

  12. KK says:

    Good memories around lunchbox. Quite interesting πŸ‘ŒπŸ‘Œ

    Liked by 1 person

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