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HISTORY OF THE COMMITTEE ON FOOD HABITS C~ rib ARL A. THE The story of the Committee on Food Habits of the National Research Council is one which relates an incident in the government defense program that reflects the foresight and vision of certain government officials, and demonstrates the efforts made by scientists to pool their knowledge and ex- perience within a restricted subject for the benefit of the government agencies requesting their assistance and advice. Late in November of Ago, well over a year prior to the Pearl Harbor incident, officials of the National Research Council, at the request of the National Defense Advisory Commission, undertook a series of conversations with Dr. M. L. Wilson, of the Department of Agriculture, who was also chair- man of the Federal Interdepartmental Nutrition Coordinating Committee, concerning ways and means by which the National Research Council could aid in studying problems of nutrition. Dr. Wilson pointed out that one aspect of national defense was concerned with the physical fitness of the entire population of our country. Nutrition, of course, must play an im- portant part in this problem. It was known that an appreciable portion of the population suffered from malnutrition. The questions immediately arose as to what could be done to improve the nutritional status of the population and as to hove this could be accomplisl~ecl on else basis of else best scientific judgment, derived not only from our knowledge of the scientific facts of nutrition, but also from the technical study and interpretation of the socio- cultural factors affecting the food folkways throughout the nation. As a result of these negotiations, the National Research Council, early in December of ~940, established two interdivisional committees in the life sciences on Chicle the chairmen of the Divisions of the Medical Sciences, of Biology and Agriculture, and of Anthropology and Psychology, are ex officio members. One of the committees was the Committee on Food Habits, which was assigned for administrative purposes to the Division of Anthropology and Psychology. The other sister-co~mittee was the Committee on Food and Nutrition, which later became known as the Food and Nutrition Board, and which was assigned for administrative purposes to the Division of Bi- ology and Agrtitulture. The first meeting of the Committee on Food Habits was held on [anuary 3 and 4, ~94~. Dr. John M. Cooper, of the Catholic University of America, had accepted the chairmanship of the Committee. During the spring, mem- bers of this Committee were in two groups: scientists not connected with else government, whose special interests and experience related to the Committee's objectives, and experts in government service who were concerned in one way 9
IO The Problem of Changing Food Habits or another with problems relating to the food situation in this country. The members of the Committee at this time there as follows: Non-governmental Members John M. Cooper, Chairman Ruth Benedict Paul Cornell Allison Davis libeler S. Mitchell Curt P. Richter George D. Stoddard Mary E. Sweeny William Lloyd Warner Liaison Members from the Federal Government Martha Eliot Paul E. Howe Rensis Likert Carroll E. Palmer John S. Provinse W. H. Sebrell Hazel K. Stiebelin;, Ruth S. Tolman The immediate task which confronted the Committee was that of formu- lating a plan of action. Following two meetings and some correspondence, a program was established under date of February ~8. The introductory nara- graph to this statement follows: ~ r "In appointing a Committee on Food Habits in addition to the Committee on Food and Nutrition, the National Research Council has acted on the assump- tion that, while the first step toward achieving an adequate national nu- tritional level is the securing of scientific information on what constitutes proper diets, there remains the second step. requiring an equally scientific ~ . ~ ~ ~ ~ approach, of finding the most eDective ways and means of adjusting habits to needs, of getting people to wish what they need. This Committee, in undertaking its assignment, agrees wholeheartedly with this point of view and feels that governmental agencies as well have a similar twofold responsibility." The program was provisional in the sense that it was based upon the knowl- edge and assembled data then available to the Committee members. The Committee, of course, planned to continue to gather, coordinate, and appraise the existing and scattered data and to promote, in so far as possible, a limited number of research projects. This provisional program of action was divided into four sections, formu- lated in the form of questions: "The recommended practical program of action is broken down into the following sections. First, where are the major weaknesses and deficiencies in our national dietary habits, and who therefore need most to be reached in either a short-range or long-range campaign? Second, what major causes are responsible for such weaknesses and deficiencies, and what should be potters to the poor-diet groups to enable them to bring their dietary habits into conformity with dietary needs ? Third, who are best equipped for undertaking the task of reaching the poor-diet groups? Fourth, by what procedures and media can such groups be most effectively reached ?"
J-Iisto~,! of tile CO?1111tittee After considering the first cluestion, the Committee recommended: I I "I. That the whole population of the United States be reached with, however, particular attention to: "a. The low income non-farm groups, largely concentrated in the eastern Industrial Belt; "b. The low income groups of the Southeast, including especially the farm and negro population thereof. "a. That regional and state agencies devote special attention to those racial, national, and cultural groups in isolated areas, whose diets may be or are known to be deficient. "3. That every effort be made to reach adequately the women, especially mothers and wives." In considering the second question, the Committee came to the conclusion that it "should advocate diets that are believed to be satisfactory, developing methods suitable for all levels of the population; the understanding being that other agencies will consider the means of economic production and distri- bution, while this Committee concentrates upon the diffusion of knowledge and the improvement of food habits." It further stated that: "To be suc- cessful, the nutrition erlucationa1 camnai~n mutt achieve the following: a a) create interest in nutrition; b) educate people to know and wish the necessary changes in their diet; c) produce these changes and establish them as habits; d) firmly establish these adequate habits in the culture as food folkways. To stop short of d), especially at a) or b), will mean that the program will fail, because the people will almost certainly lapse into their old food habits. While, therefore, a short-time intensive emergency educa- tional campaign is desirable and can accomplish much, long-range educational work will also have definitely to be planned for." In answering the third question, the Committee made the following state- ments: "So far as possible, already existing and functioning organized groups and agencies, public and private, should undertake or take Dart in the execu- ti can Of th `~ n 1ltriti can eA1 1~ ti on nr~r~ no ---r ---~- ,^ ~ ,^~ ^ ~ And t^~ . While it is highly desirable in a national campaign to make full use of technically trained individuals and organized groups in the field of nutrition at the local, state, and national level, and while they should guide and advise, it seems undesirable, especially at the local level, for them to have exclusive management of the educational program It is of paramount importance to secure as full and demo cratic participation as possible on the part of the leaders and general member ship of the organizations of women. On the women, more than on anyone else, depends, in the short run and in the long run, the fanaily's diet, both as to choice of food and as to preparation thereof. But the man should not be left out of the picture, even at the local level, as the men too have a voice 7 and sometimes the deciding voice, in choice and preparation of the family food." In dealing with the fourth question, the Committee recommended that the fullest possible use be made of leaflets, booklets, posters, and nutrition films and that the program of the National Nutrition Education Campaign "be
I2 The Problems of Changing Food Habits tried out experimentally in selected test localities before being put into opera- tion on a nationwide scale." The essential points of this provisional program of action have been in- corporated in this statement, because they reveal most adequately the attitude of mind of the Committee during the first months of its existence, and form a frame of reference or charter which tended to control the subsequent ac- tivities of the Committee during the cooling two years. About this time two sub-committees were created to investigate the potential activities which might be undertaken in two special fields. One was the Subcommittee on Chan~,in:, Children's Food Habits, of which Miss diary Sweeny was chairman, and the other the Subco~ittee on l'~l~licit~ of which Dr. NAi. H. Sehrell was chairman. Unfortunately, about April I, Her, the severe illness of Dr. Cooper forced him to abandon the active leadership of the Committee. Within a few weeks the Committee was fortunate in securing the services of Dr. Rensis Likert, of the Department of Agriculture, as acting, chairman, a post which he held until the close of the fiscal ~ ear on June 30, when he became seriously ill and unable to direct the affairs of the Committee during the summer months of ~94~. The latter part of the sprint, of ~94~ was devoted largely to exploratory activities. Close contact was maintained with Dr. Wilson's office in the office of the Hon. Paul McNutt, Coordinator of Health, Welfare, and Related Defense Activities. Preliminary arrangements were made toward formulating a series of research projects for the Committee and toward securing govern- mental support for the work of the Committee during the coming fiscal year of ~94~-42. It Recense increasingly evident that a large number of civilian and government organizations were actively interested in various socio-cultural aspects of flee nutrition problem. The Committee needed to familiarize it- self with many of these activities. Therefore, under the leadership of Dr. Likert, trio conferences' * were lately late in the spring. The first of these conferences was held in Washington on May 23 and 24, i~nmedie.tely preceding the National Nutrition Conference called by Presi- dent Roosevelt. These two days were devoted to brief reports from ~5 in- dividuals upon a variety of investigations into the problems of food habits conducted throughout the country by several colleges, universities, and re- search centers, as well as by some of the government departments, such as the Department of Agriculture, the Office of Education, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In choosing the participants, special consideration was given to studies being conducted in the southern and southeastern part of else country, since this area seemed to be of special significance from the nu- tritional standpoint. The second conference also occupied two days,' and was held a month later on June 27 and 28. On the first day reports from the field of market research were given by representatives of the American Meat Institute, * See Summaries of a Conference on "Research in the Field of Food Habits," May 23-24, ~94~, a Conference on "Contributions from the Field of Market Research," June 27, ~94~ and a Conference on "Contributions from the Field of Child Development," June 28, ~94~, pp. 127, ~4~, and ~49 of this report.
History of the Co~?~ittee IS the Evaporated Milk Association, and the National Livestock and Heat Board. The second day was' given over to reports from nine individuals representing various research centers which had been carrying on investiga- tions into children's food habits, and to statements bit six persons upon studies of educational programs and their orientation made by government and civilian groups. These informative conferences performed- several functions. First, they demonstrated the need for giving due consideration to the psychological and socio-culturaI factors which are involved in carrying out any national nutrition campaign. Second, they offered the participants an opportunity to exchange ideas and familiarize themselves in more detail with the work done by their colleagues in other institutions. Third, they furnished the members of the Committee factual data upon the great variety of subjects for study in the field of food habits, and the diversity of methods used in their investigation. At the closed meeting of the Committee, held on tune s9, immediately following the second of the large conferences, whirls Dr. Likert as acting chairman was unable to attend because of illness, considerable time was given to a discussion of a number of proposals for investigations and studies to be undertaken under the auspices of the Committee. These varied con- siderably ire objectives and in methods, and some would have required con- siderable sums for their prosecution. A few were approved tentatively sub- ject to securing the necessary funds. Among these was one suggested by Miss Genoeffa Nizzardini, calling for a study of the food habits of minority nationality groups in this country, beginning with the Italian group. The reports of the two subcommittees le'd to an extended discussion of the potential relationship between the Committee on Food Habits and the government organizations it sought to serve. This resulted in the following resolution: "Regarding itself as a committee of the National Research Council estab- lished to give aid, by means of advice and research, in improving the food habits of the American people at a time of national emergency, the Com- mittee on Food Habits recommends: "a. That it reaffirm its early unanimous action calling for the mobilization of such resources as will make the necessary foods available and will unite existing federal, state, and private agencies in the promotion of an effective plan for improving food habits; That it be informed of the governmental personnel and program set up to implement the improvement of food habits in order that the Food Habits Committee may be guided in its advisory and research functions, for example in recommending surveys of present conditions, the evalua- tion of proposed undertakings,'and measures of the effectiveness of programs; "c. That its action calling for the evaluation of educational programs and related researches be recognized by adequate actions and appropria- tions within the designated governmental agency;
I4 The Problems of C1:a~yi;~y Food Habits all with the understanding that the total nutritional program shall be con- ceived consistently with the nation-wide scope of the problem, and with a further understanding that the Food Habits Committee shall continue to function, not in administrative action, but in consultation and research recommendation." Because of the illness of both Dr. Cooper and Dr. Likert, it was necessary for the Committee to consider the matter of another chairman. In the dis- cussion, it was recognized that the potential usefulness of the Committee could not be approximated by- depending solely upon the spare time of the Committee members, who without exception have obligations to their re- spective institutions and organizations. The suggestion was made at this meeting that the Committee attempt to secure either a full time chairman or a full time executive secretary to work toward the objectives for which the Committee was created. During the first six months of ~94~, which constituted the formative stage in the Committee's existence, a considerable amount of progress had been made. A program of action had been established. Studies had been made and conferences held as means of exploring the fields of interest of the Com- mittee. Through its deliberations, the Committee succeeded in pointing, out the importance of recognition of the variable food habits of the people of our nation, and the significance of the variety of problems connected therewith. However, the Committee was not yet fully integrated, nor was its status in the nutrition program of the national defense organizations clearly defined. During the summer of i94~ the work of the Committee progressed slowly, due to the unavoidable lack of active leadership and the equally unavoidable delay in the appointment of a new chairman. However, the world upon the study of the food habits of the Italians in this country was carried forward lay Miss Nizzardini. In addition, an important step was taken concerning the future of the Committee. During the summer the National Academy of Sciences signed a contract with the office of the Coordinator of Health, Welfare and Re- lated Defense Activities in the :F ederal Security Agency, covering the financial support by the latter of the work of the Committee on Food Habits and the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council, for the fiscal year ~94~-42. The Academy, acting for the National Research Council, agreed to use this sum "to conduct studies and investigations and prepare reports, with the aid of technical experts, utilizing committees and subcommittees and other facilities available, upon: food, nutrition, and food habits," and "to keep the coordinator informed by means of such reports and other communi- cations or advice as the coordinator may need or request, in regard to the progress of the studies or other activities which it may undertake in ac- cordance with this contract." In October, Dr. Carl E. Guthe, of the University of Michigan, accepted the chairmanship of the Committee, and undertook its reorganization and the redefinition of its policies. On November 3, the members of the Committee residing in the Washington area were called together to discuss the plans of the chairman. In November, the chairman issued a memorandum based upon the principles expressed in the provisional program of action adopted by the
History of the Co~n?~ittee ~5 Committee the previous spring. In preparing this memorandum he took into account the nature of the contract signed during the summer and informa- tion he had secured in the early fall while attending a meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Nutrition. This memorandum, looking toward the redefinition of the Committee's policies, contained the following statements: "The government agencies, working through a coordinating committee, have taken the responsibility for studying, through surveys and field work, the varieties, the distribution, and the extent of dietary practices in the nation, and for the organization of various campaigns looking toward the influencing of public opinion upon nutritional subjects. "The Food and Nutrition Board of the Division of Biology and Agriculture has taken the responsibility for studying the nutritional values of the elements of diet, and for making recommendations upon various foods and food elements in terms of nutritional needs. "The (~.~mmittef~ ran Bend ~ hits should supplement rather than -pro ~_-A~ - - - - - It should concentrate upon folkways and not upon diet and nutrition, in order to prepare itself to assume the responsibility of making recommendations upon the use or misuse of the forces which affect changes in food habits. "Phenomena of cultural change have been studied in several disciplines. from different viewpoints, and with varying results. . . . . . . ~. ~ cl1,nlic~tr~ the nctiviti~ of there other Into . - - r --a Students of biology, physiology, psychology, anthropology, sociology, public relations, public health, and education have all given attention to these phenomena, have accumulated data and formulated various correlations, deductions, and conclusions, which are being transmitted in the academic and scientific world to other students through the media of teaching and publications. "The membership of the Committee has been chosen in terms of breadth . . ~ The . . . . . . Of viewpoint and of experience In the several disciplines concerned Committee faces an unusual challenge. The opportunity exists to play an important part in the improvement of national health through nutrition. The opportunity is offered to demonstrate that students of culture are able to furnish practical advice upon current problems in our own culture. "The Committee on Food Habits should assume the responsibility of making scientifically sound recommendations to the appropriate governmental agencies upon the characteristics of the variety of food habits throughout our nation, and upon the methods of controlling the cultural forces which cause them to change." The reorganization recommended by the chairman involved three changes of policy. In the first place, it was strongly urged that a full time paid execu- tive secretary be employed and placed in charge of a Washington office of the Committee. In the second place, it was recommended that the Committee proper, later known as the Executive Members of the Committee, consist only of scientists and scholars interested in food habits who are not connected with the government service. In the third place, it was recommended that liaison members of the Committee be officially appointed by the proper authorities in each of the Government agencies potentially interested in the work of the Committee, and that these liaison members act, not as Committee
I 6 The Problems of CIza;~gi~g Food Habits Novembers, but as liaison advisors to the executive secretary in maintaining co~- tinuous and informal contact between the Committee and the several govern- ment agencies represented The executive membership of the newly organized Committee was as fol- lows, representing the fields of anthropology, psychology, sociology, home economics, physiological psychology, and public health: Ruth Benedict [ohn M. Cooper Allison Davis Joseph K. Folsom Lawrence K. Frank Carl E. Guthe, chairman Mark A. Slay Curt P. Richter Nathan Sinai NIary E. Sweeny W. I loyd Warner ~ rom this time on, the membership of the Committee has remained constant with the single exception of the resignation of Dr. Curt Richter in the sum- ~ller of ~942. He was replaced by Dr. Warren T. Vaughan, who brought to the Committee a knowledge of the medical sciences. At a meeting of the reorganized Committee on December 6, ~94~, the recommendations of the chairman were approved and he was authorized to invite Or. Margaret Mead to become executive secretary and take charge of the office in Washington. The Committee further agreed that objectives were twofold: first, to analyze and interpret existing technical knowledge upon the methods and principles of the several disciplines represented by its mem- bership in such a way that this technical knowledge may be applied specifically to the field of food habits, and second, to establish research projects which will furnish information upon methods and principles applicable to the field of food habits, concerning which the Committee does not now possess sufficient knowledge. Dr. Margaret Mead, to the great go^od fortune of the Committee, accepted the post of executive secretary, at first on a part time, non-resident basis for the month of January, i942. On February I, having been granted a wartime leave of absence from the American Museum of Natural History, she came to Washington to take charge of the office of the Committee on a full time basis. At a meeting of the Committee held or1 February i4 and ~ 5, ~942, Dr. Mead presented a series of plans for investigations based upon the prin- ciple of decentralizing research and thereby using the facilities of many colleagues in various parts of the country. The several recommendations of the executive secretary which were approved by the Committee at this meet- ~ng were: Plan for organizing qualitative opinion sampling squads among social science students on a volunteer basis, particularly in non-land-grant colleges. b. Plan for the coordination of local research at several research centers with the active cooperation of members of the Committee whenever possible.
History of the Co~1ittee I7 c. Plan for utilization of secondary sources and using experts as informants. d. Plan for coordination of local universities and colleges with ongoing community experiments in nutrition campaigns. e. Plan for developing a standard series of research leads. All of these proposals had value from at least two standpoints. They made it possible for the Committee to secure rapidly and with little expense definitive information from various parts of the country upon current atti- tudes toward nutrition and existing food habits. They also enabled the Com- mittee to keep in touch with experts in all parts of the country and thereby represent more adequately in its relations with the various government agencies the opinion of these scholars and scientists. The results obtained since February ~942, in carrying out this research program are dealt with elsewhere in this volume. It is sufficient to indicate here that most of these plans were carried out and expanded as opportunity offered, thereby bringing to the Committee a quantity of information which has enabled it to issue at various times mimeographed reports upon the results of the use of these several research mechanisms. In the Washington office, Dr. Mead was given the services of two tech- nical assistants to collate and analyze the research data received by the office from these several sources. During the spring of i942, Dr. Mead established contact and liaison relations with seventeen government agencies actively concerned with the nutrition program through Dr. Wilson in the Office of Defense Health and Welfare Services of the Federal Security Agency. Dr. Mead has maintained a useful and efficient relationship with all interested government agencies, thereby meeting most satisfactorily one of the objectives of the Committee. During the spring of i942, a program was inaugurated by which at each meeting of the Executive Members of the Committee, at least one half day was devoted to a liaison session, to which were invited all of the Liaison Mem- bers of the Committee and any other guests who would be interested in the proceedings. These liaison sessions * were devoted to informal discussions of matters of current interest in the nutrition campaign, thereby enabling the Executive Members of the Committee and the Liaison Members to become ac- quainted and to exchange knowledge of their activities and points of view. The sessions were usually constructed around a series of reports by specially invited guests. In the course of the development of the work of the Committee, Dr. Mead found opportunity, frequently at the suggestion of Dr. Wilson, to undertake trips to various parts of the country in order to evaluate at first hand local conditions affecting food habits and to consult directly with colleagues who had undertaken various research projects under the auspices of the Committee. In the summer of i942, the contract between the National Academy of Sciences and the Federal Security Agency was renewed for the fiscal year * See summaries of proceedings of Liaison Sessions of the Committee on Food Habits, pp. 158, 159, 160, and I62 of this report. 2
IS The Problems of Cha;:gi,~g Food Habits ~942-43, but this time without any provision for research funds such as 1~ar1 been contained in the previous contract. This required the Committee to seek additional research funds from non-governmental sources. Such a program, which had already started in the spring of ~942, was carried forward success- fully and several additional research projects were established under funds granted by several non-governmental agencies. With the entry of the United States into the war, the interests and objec- tives of the nutrition campaign have, of course, been changed to some extent. Correspondingly, the Committee has become more interested in problems of food habits which relate to the rationing of food in this country and to the distribution of foods to various parts of the world under the lend-lease program. In connection with these interests, the Committee has tended to broaden its association with government agencies through contacts which the executive secretary has made with the Office of Foreign Relief and Re- habilitation Operations and the Office of War Information It is evident, as the fiscal year ~942-43 draws to a close, that the work of the Committee has expanded and become increasingly complex. Yet its achievements are all closely related and in their entirety constitute an inte- grated approach to the factual problems of definition and description of dietary patterns, to the psychological problems involved in the individual conformity or non-conformity to cultural norms, and to the applied science problems of bringing traditional dietary patterns into conformity faith the findings of the science of nutrition. The technical details included in the reports and releases which have been issued demonstrate the complementary nature of the work of the Committee to that of the Food and Nutrition Board. The studies and investigations being conducted by the Committee on Food Habits furnish the necessary data and constitute the technical basis for the immediate and useful services it is now rendering the wartime food program. This statement, taken from the chairman's most recent annual report, constitutes a summary of the principles which have governed the work of the Committee during the second phase of its existence which began with the employment of Dr. Mead as executive secretary in January of ig42. The fundamental guiding policy is still the same as that laid down in the pro- visional program of action adopted by the Committee in the spring of ~94~. The work which has been done has clarified and made specific the methods used and the results obtained through attempting to answer the four ques- tions around which this original program of action was formulated. During the spring of Ugly, reorganization within the Federal Government transferred the nutrition program from the Federal Security Agency to the United States Department of Agriculture. However, this change in adminis- tration did not affect the Committee or its relationship to the nutrition pro- gram, which now operates under the Nutrition and Food Conservation Branch of the Food Distribution Administration. The function of the Committee has become satisfactorily clear, both as an advisory body to the nutrition program of the Federal Government and as one of the interdivisional committees in th lif=seiences of the National Research Council.
History of the Committee I9 ~itl~in itself, the Committee on Food Habits has become integrated and has grown into a closely knit, smoothly functioning group of scientists who have contributed generously and without reservation their technical knowl- edge and experience to the discussion and the attempted solution of the prob- lems presented to the Committee. The story of the Committee on Food Habits records a reasonably suc- cessful attempt on the part of a loony of scientists chosen from several disci- plines to work together for the purpose of aiding government officials with vision in their desire to take advantage of scientific knowledge in furthering the interests of flee people of our country.