MAY 29, 1956
HYDE PARK, N. Y—I have a communication from the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, Inc., on the subject of nutrition among the children of our country.
I was a little appalled to find that as far back as 1941 Dr. Thomas Parran said: "Tomorrow's civilization can be vastly different, and far better than today's, if we put to work now what we know now about the nutrition of human beings."
He said that at that time because, as a result of inadequate diets, many of our children were suffering from "half-health, half-strength, half-happiness."
The association goes on to tell me that comparisons in population and production of milk show, for instance, that milk consumption per capita is lower today than it was in 1941. At that time, our population was 133,377,000 and our milk production was 115,088,000 pounds. In 1951, our population was 154,360,000 and milk production was 115,591,000 pounds.
These figures show a very little increase in milk production against a large increase in our population, which means that, as far as milk was concerned, our children lacked an adequate diet.
A nutrition study made in Pennsylvania over a seven-year period showed that among 2,564 children, not one child could be rated in the optimum medical and physical class.
Mrs. Harris B. Gaines, the president of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, adds that at least three-fourths of the nation's children suffer from undernourishment.
How can we square this statement with the fact that we have food surpluses, that we are concerned with what to do in getting rid of our milk and butter surpluses?
This first thing we should do is to see that our children—all of our children—in this rich country are nourished sufficiently. That is the kind of subsidy we can well afford to pay our farmers because it means, for the nation as a whole, an increase in vitality and health for future generations.
It would be a saving if our government decided right now, through proper Congressional committees, that every school in this country should have not only an adequate lunch program but an adequate breakfast program.
Sweden gives all of its school children a breakfast. We might as well give breakfast and lunch.
Few letters that I have received of late have given me as much disagreeable information as this one from Mrs. Gaines. She points out that low–income families in the South, both white and colored, are desperately in need of good nutrition.
She says, too, that colored families, more than others, need both food and education because statistics show that, on the average, their men die seven years younger and their women 10 years earlier than those in other categories of the population.
These colored women's clubs are starting a better health program. But I think a national nutrition conference should be called and the government should be concerned enough with this lack of nutrition to tie it up with the surplus food and farm problems, assuring us that we will not have an undernourished population.