From Toronto comes an equally impressive record. There, Drs. Tisdall, Drake and Ebbs have made a study of the effect of giving women, living on a nutritionally inadequate diet, supplementary milk, eggs, oranges, tomatoes, cheese and vitamins B and D during the latter part of pregnancy. The numbers of pre‐natal anæmias, toxæmic conditions, miscarriages, stillbirths and premature births all showed striking reductions. On this supplementary diet 90 per cent. of the babies born were judged as “good.” The control group scored only 62 per cent. No record in vital statistics is more striking than the fall in infant mortality that has occurred in the past quarter of a century. For this, we have to thank the growth of the infant welfare movement—with which you, my Lord Chairman (Lord Woolton) and your wife were associated as pioneers in its earliest days—and the introduction of dried and pasteurised milks. But the reduction in the incidence of infantile deaths has not been paralleled by a fall in stillbirths and neo‐natal deaths. In Toronto, for example, the former dropped 40 per cent. in the decade before 1939, whilst the latter fell only 7 per cent. They are believed to be much higher in hospital cases than in specialist practice. The evidence that the faulty diet of the mother is more often than not a causative factor appears to be growing. It can, I think, be safely assumed that what has been done and should be done during this war to enable the pregnant woman to get the nutriment she and her growing child require will form the sure foundation on which will be built a post‐war policy to abolish once and for all a hazard to which no expectant mother should ever be exposed because it is her misfortune to lack the means to purchase the foods which her condition demands. The child is born. To‐day, our nutritional policy has ensured that it obtains a good start in life, whatever may be the circumstances of its parents; milk for the mother if she is nursing; milk for the child if it needs artificial feeding. To this are added cod liver oil and orange juice, each of proven vitamin potency. In every home where these bottles of golden juice from the groves of Florida and California are found, they are a reminder of the heartfelt wish of the people of the United States that our babies should not suffer from grave deficiencies which might affect the whole of their later life. I believe this is something which has come to stay. I cannot see us reverting after the war to conditions which make it difficult to provide the fullest protection that can be given by proper diet to the health of every child during its early years. It is said of King Edward VII that he replied, when told that tuberculosis is a preventable disease: “Then why is it not prevented?” He could well have said this of malnutrition. What of the children of school age? How have they fared under war‐time conditions so far as their food is concerned? It is difficult to present a composite picture, for there are so many and so varied problems. Do not for one moment imagine it is only the child from the poor home who is in danger of being badly nourished. I have had in my hands records of the food of boys at exclusive public schools that sent shivers down my nutritional spine. The nutritional policy adopted for the war period has given strong reinforcement to those who wished to see the feeding of school‐children in our elementary schools carried out on a much wider basis and by more up‐to‐date methods. The days when necessity had to be proven before a child was entitled to a school meal will soon seem as remote as those when the proposal to give meals to necessitous school‐children was being vigorously debated. It is hard to credit that there was strong opposition to this project only thirty‐five years ago. Looking at the records of that lively controversy, one finds over and over again that curious concern for “parental control” or “parental influence.” Apparently this is gravely endangered by giving a child a nourishing meal at school. The fact that so large a proportion of those who so dogmatically expressed that view—and there still appear to be many such—had no compunction in packing their own children off to schools where they would be out of parental control for the best part of nine months of the year did not seem to weigh with them. Gone are the days when all that mattered was filling the bellies of the youngsters with something hot and stodgy. Menus for our elementary school kitchens are now planned to give meals appetising and nourishing in themselves, and also to provide over a sequence of days an intake of nutrients which ought to go a long way to make good deficiencies there are likely to be in the home diet. It is much the same principle as that on which Professor Schiötz based the “Oslo meal” and it is fundamentally sound. I do not need to refer in detail to active co‐operation between the Board of Education and the Ministry of Food on these plans for extending the provision of meals for children or to the striking progress that is being made to‐day, in spite of great difficulties arising from shortage of supplies, labour and equipment, to increase the number of good meals provided at school feeding centres. Already the numbers are approaching half a million. But expectations are that a much larger total will be achieved before the end of the year. We are often asked why, when it is so relatively simple a matter to prepare good, nourishing soups, we do not encourage this method of feeding children. I had many enquiries about this when I was recently in the United States, where interesting experiments are in progress in compounding soup‐base mixtures of high nutritional value.
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