« AnteriorContinuar »
York city are undernourished. This figure is probably lower, not higher, than that found in the country at large, since, contrary to popular opinion, it has been demonstrated that children in rural districts show a lower level of physical efficiency than city children. It is estimated by the best students of the subject that about six million school children, of the twenty million school children of the country, are malnourished. Their great number is the shame of our civilization. The removal of this condition constituted a national crises. The children of the country are our second line of defense. They are the guardians of the civilization of tomorrow. The recent draft revelations of deplorable physical deterioration in the flower of our young men, have demonstrated that these children who do not measure up to standard become in later years the men and women who do not measure up in their country's time of need. President Wilson has said that, second only to our duty of caring for the men at the front, is our duty of caring for our children at home.
European countries have long realized the foolishness of trying to force book learning upon children whose bodies and brains are weakened through lack of nourishment. Group feeding in the shape of a school lunch service has long been considered an important part of the educational system of France, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, England and Germany. The United States is, on the whole, many years behind the times in her appreciation of the educational value of the school lunch.
In its study of the problem of malnutrition and ways of combating it, the Public Health Committee of the New York Academy of Medicine has issued a statement saying that
School feeding on a self-supporting basis ought to be part and parcel of our educational system. It has been proved by demonstration in this city and elsewhere that, in groups, children will much more readily eat food to which they have not been accustomed. Peculiarities of taste and racial customs are readily overcome through the stimulation of group feeding, the children eating the new foods with relish. In this wise they develop habits for wholesome and nutritious foods, which they have not been receiving at home. They take back into the homes the taste for the new foods and by thus stimulated demand improve the home dietary. Herein lies the educational value of the so-called "school lunches," which in many of the cities of our country and in other countries have proved to be of genuine benefit to the children in a great variety of ways.
Educational Value of School Lunch In the inculcation of correct food habits it is of comparatively small value to give abstract information to the children about the food value of this or that food substance which they either do not know or do not like. The school lunch offers an opportunity of cultivating in them a taste and desire for the right kind of food, and offers an object lesson through which instruction on food values can be made concrete. Quite aside from its importance as a war emergency measure, to teach the children to eat war foods and food substances, and appeal to them in their country's time of need to become strong men and women for patriotic reasons, the school lunch has a permanent educational value because—
1. The food chosen for the lunches can be of the proper substance, quality and amount required for the physiological needs of the children.
2. The food can be well cooked, thereby setting a standard for children from homes in which cooking is a neglected art.
3. The children can be taught why they need certain kinds of foods.
4. The children can be taught how much they need.
5. The children can be taught what the food costs, and where and how it is produced.
6. The children can be taught that they are dependent upon the labor of others and that they should make a fair return.
7. The children can be taught the identity of substance in all our common foods, and therefore, how to choose food substitutes wisely. They can be taught to see that the food habits of all national groups depend upon the food supply of the environment. The foreign born bring their habits and leave their environment. They bring some good habits, and some habits which cannot be continued in the American environment. Good American living means an exchange and preservation of the good food habits of all nations which are feasible in the American environment. The school lunch thus becomes, an important feature in naturalization.
8. Competition can be stimulated by means of the keeping of individual growth records (which should include normal and actual weight and height) to indicate physical gains due to proper eating.
9. Mothers whose interest in food has been awakened through group feeding of their children—are especially receptive to—
A. Instruction in food values by home visitors.
B. Demonstrations — in selection and preparation — of food to groups at schools—playgrounds, etc.
C. Formation of buying clubs—canning clubs, etc.
It is true that many excellent school lunches have been served in various communities. But it is also true that they have, for the most part, been regarded primarily as a convenient means of feeding hungry children at noon, and that the purely educational possibilities have not been developed. I have, within a few days, eaten a school lunch which, so far as its preparation was concerned, was as nearly perfect as it is possible to be. The food was well selected, well cooked, deliciously flavored, and sold at a price well within the reach of the children. But there was no attempt to teach the children the food value of what they were eating, and the lunch had no visible connection with the excellent work which was being done in this same school in the departments of domestic science, physical education, physiology and hygiene, medical inspection, or the school gardens. The principal of this school was an alert and progressive man, who had merely to have the idea of the advantages a correlation between the work of these departments presented to him, in order to carry it over to his teachers. Inside of 48 hours, he had worked out and put into practice a system of coordination of all of this health work, so that the attention of every child in the school was focussed on the educational hearings of the school lunch. The interest in the work of the other departments grew proportionately with the insight of the children into the practical application of their work, as they saw it made concrete in the school lunch, and the man who had made the correlation was more than delighted with the results of his experiment. In that school, the correlation of the work in the related branches to emphasize the educational value of the school lunch is no longer an experiment. It has become an established part of the order of that school, to continue as long as the school lunch is continued.
The New York Food Scouts
An interesting demonstration of the educational possibilities of the school lunch was conducted during the past winter by the "Food Scouts" of Public School No. 40, New York city, under the joint auspices of the People's Institute, the Post-Graduate Hospital and the New York School Lunch Committee. Twenty-five boys volunteered to eat a well balanced mid-day meal—the kind of hot school lunch every child should have—for a period of three months, in order to show the other boys of New York, and ultimately of America, that it is the patriotic duty of every boy and girl to-day to eat the food that will help them grow into strong men and women for the America of tomorrow.
Through the well chosen meals which these boys ate, as well as through the reorganization of many of their general health habits by the home visitor in connection with the experiment, there resulted an appreciable gain in weight in these malnourished boys. Moreover, through the extensive newspaper publicity which these experiments easily gained, the public generally were taught many of the essentials of proper nourishment. The following composition written by a ten year old food scout, but six years out of Poland, shows that he read the newspapers and learned to speak in calories as easily as he pronounces his unpronounceable name. The terms used by this boy were gleaned entirely from newspaper publicity, and offer a good example of unconcious education outside of the class-room.
The food scouts of P. S. 40 know what food is best for boys. They know that coffee and tea are very bad for children.
The school children ought to have hot lunches containing 2,000 food units. Too much meat given to children is bad. Light soup is bad. Soup ought to be cooked with VERY many vegetables.
Vegetable puree, oatmeal pudding with milk, ginger bread and three dates mal^e a good lunch. Succotash, one lamb chop, a cup of cocoa and a fig are also good for a school child.
Foods containing wheat, milk, eggs and butter are very good for children. Prunes are very healthy, for eighteen tomatoes equal three prunes.
Recently, we have developed in this country another method of combating malnutrition through the utilization of the group spirit which is deserving of special attention. I refer to the so-called malnutrition clinic, or, better, the nutrition class, whose teachnique has been developed by Dr. William P. Emerson at the Massachusetts General Hospital and at the Home for Little Wanderers in Boston. Dr. Charles Hendee Smith has been developing the same method in connection with a class of malnourished children in Bellevue Hospital, New York city. The children in these nutrition classes were sent there because of some obscure illness or breakdown, due in the estimation of the special physicians in other clinics, to malnutrition. This seems like locking the barn after the horse has been stolen. It is much more logical to prevent the condition than to cure it after the breakdown. Therefore, Dr. Emerson, working with the Bureau of Educational Experiments, has been conducting a nutrition class in a Public School on the East Side in New York city, to demonstrate the feasibility of gathering the children who are markedly below par in their nutrition into a special class for instruction and upbuilding, and thus using the ounce of prevention which is better than a pound of cure.
The class method of caring for malnourished children has two preeminent advantages. First, it saves the time of the persons conducting the class, by enabling them to teach many children at once, with little more effort than is required to care for a few. Second, the group spirit, and the spirit of competition which can be aroused in the children are potent forces in keeping up interest and effort.
Nutrition classes may be conducted in public schools, settlement houses, summer camps, or the out-patient departments of hospitals. The public school has the advantage over all other locations, for the reason that it is easier to secure regular attendance there. Moreover, the school is the logical place for emphasizing the educational aspect of health training. This is especially true in schools which serve lunches, for then we have, as already noted, excellent object lessons for instruction concerning diet.
In order that the educational value of the school lunch may be fully developed, it is important that our public school teachers shall be properly trained to teach health and dietetics. This means that the normal schools of the country must recognize the need by putting appropriate training courses into their curricula, just as they provide such courses for the teaching of arithmetic and spelling. Unfortunately, few of our public school teachers are prepared, at the present time, to shoulder their responsibility in the problem. The facilities offered by teachers' institutes and summer school courses should be utilized to the utmost, in order to enable the teachers who have already been graduated from the normal schools to supplement their training, and equip themselves to teach dietetics and health, as well as arithmetic and spelling. A Call for Instructors
There is a wide immediate demand for workers who can act as a connecting link between the school lunch or the nutrition class and the home. A graduate nurse with a good knowledge of dietetics and social service training is perhaps ideally equipped for this work of home visitor. Some physicians, however, prefer as aides women who are trained social investigators and home visitors, and who have, in addition, some specialized dietetic and health training.
These ideal workers are of course very scarce at the present time, and to meet the immediate need an interesting War Emrgency Course in Child Conservation was recently organized by the People's Institute of New York city, in co-operation with Teacher's College of Columbia University. The course lasted six weeks and consisted of lectures and demonstrations by experts in the various fields of child health, with special emphasis on the problems of malnutrition and food for growing children. This course might well serve as a model for other similar courses elsewhere for meeting the present need of providing home visitors equipped with the technical information which will enable them to reach back into the homes of the children and see that instructions regarding food and hygiene are actually put into practice as a foundation for the health habits which should be formed by all children.
In order to meet the pressing problem of malnutrition in American children, occasioned by the war, there has recently been formed a national committee of eminent physicians, specialists in the diseases of children, and of wellknown educators, who are urging the establishment of school lunches everywhere for their educational value. Under the name of The Child Health Organization, whose chairman is Dr. L. Emmett Holt, they are formulating plans for seeing that the public schools of the country teach health habits to children, that adequate health examinations are given, and health records are kept for all children, to accompany the scholarship records of the children throughout their school life. The literature of the organization explains how to conduct a malnutrition survey, how to conduct a malnutrition class, and what are the essentials of the diet of school children. It may be procured from the Child Health Organization, 289 Fourth Avenue, New York.
Valuable food charts which will appeal to both the children and their parents, and which will be exceedingly helpful to anyone intent on developing the educational possibilities of the school lunch, or to the visiting teacher of health and dietetics, are those prepared by the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, of New York, under the direction of Lucy Gillett. The charts and posters of the National Child Welfare Association, New York, and those prepared by Dr. Thomas Wood of Teachers' College, Columbia University, are very helpful. An exhibit of wax food models, illustrating hundred-calory