Philadelphia and Boston were the first major cities to actively attempt to implement a school lunch program in the United States. Philadelphia began by serving penny lunches at one school in 1894. Eventually a lunch committee was added to the Home and School League and the penny lunch program was extended to eight additional schools throughout the city. In Boston, the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union began serving hot lunches to high schools and a centrally located kitchen was used to prepare the meals, which were later transported to the participating schools.
Read more in The History of School Lunch by Tori Avey on the PBS website (2015)