I'll be presenting at the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Fall Forum tomorrow. Their day is focused on the role of primary care in food security and in preparing for my talk, I went back and re-read the "Hungry Children" report authored by Dr. Raymond Wheeler for the Southern Regional Council.
As some of you may know, Dr. Wheeler and a delegation of doctors and researchers toured the rural south in the late 60's to get a clearer picture of what poverty and hunger looked like in those areas.
This is the first paragraph of the introduction:
Increasingly across the rural South in recent years have come reports of poverty so extreme as to be -- in an era of comparative national prosperity -- beyond the comprehension of middle class America. A great deal of statistical data already has been compiled on conditions. During the past twenty years, for example, over 200,000 farm laborers in Mississippi have been displaced by mechanization of farming operations.
This introduction could be lifted from this report written 40+ years ago and inserted into a similar report today and it would still be true.
That's not to say nothing has changed, in fact quite the opposite. The "Hungry Children" report plus the landmark CBS documentary "Hunger in America" pricked our national conscience and together, working in communities and with policymakers, we worked to vastly improve the tools we had to fight extreme hunger and deprivation: we created the WIC program, made the food stamps program free, and expanded free meals at school.
Going into the project, the doctors and researchers who worked on that report weren't hunger fighters. They were just a group of doctors trying to document the effects of deep poverty on children and better understand how they might improve their health.
Their simple conclusion? More food.
I also found the CBS documentary Hunger in America, which you should check out below. In it, Dr. Wheeler says, "When children don’t get enough to eat, their initial response to the world is mistrust.”