Current Obesity — How Did We Get Here?

People who were around in the 1960s remember that era fondly not just for the music and the light shows, but for such astonishing developments as the “discovery” of hunger in America.

Laurie B. Green, Ph.D, explains eloquently:

The very meaning of “discovery,” when it came to the politics of hunger in the late 1960s, rested in part on the production and reception of news, documentaries, visual images and editorials that, at times, provoked explicit confrontations over who had the right and expertise to say whether starvation existed in America.

In 1967 a pair of senators started poking around in poor neighborhoods, where a lot of bad things were going on. People who were entitled to food stamps were denied them. There was actual, clinical malnutrition. In 1968 a much-discussed TV exposé was both widely praised, and denounced as unpatriotic propaganda. Prof. Green, who teaches at the University of Texas, Austin, and is a Public Voices Fellow, wrote:

Later it came out that the Mississippi congressman who headed the House agricultural appropriations subcommittee borrowed agents from the FBI to track down and survey the cupboards of every interviewee to prove the show had been a pack of lies…

[…] While the Federal Communications Commission weighed charges that CBS had overstepped the ethical bounds of journalism, social commentators referred to the documentary as the turning point in bringing public awareness to the crisis of hunger.

The matter of truth, including who had the right to define it, was an incendiary one in April 1967 and for months thereafter. There was an enormous amount of pressure to deny that anyone went hungry in America.

But also, there were hearings in Washington, and a White House conference. There was War on Poverty funding, and the federal government paid people to go look at the most devastated areas in the country and report back. Oncology researchers were puzzled that some kids who were treated for cancer got better while others, who should logically have gotten better, did not. Many paths of inquiry converged. Racism and several other contemporary societal problems were implicated.

G. William Hoagland used to work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service. Accordingly, he was for a short time in 1981 in charge of feeding America’s hungry people.

Hoagland marked the end of last year with an enlightening piece called “What’s Happened in the 50 Years Since the White House Food and Nutrition Conference?” Childhood Obesity News intends to use it as the armature on which to hang additional matters, especially as they relate to who gets to eat what, in public schools, and how those practices are connected to childhood obesity. Hoagland wrote of the past,

The National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program were also expanded to provide both free and reduced priced lunches to needy children, and the Special, Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) — targeting nutrition assistance for pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and young children — was established.

Food stamps, aka SNAP, fed three million people in 1969, and now has 36 million enrollees. Today, 11% of the population are “food insecure, defined as uncertain of having or unable to acquire enough food for their family.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Media Matters: 50 years after the ‘discovery’ of hunger in the U.S.,”, 04/15/17
Source: “What’s Happened in the 50 Years Since the White House Food and Nutrition Conference?,”, 12/04/19
Image by Howard Litwiler/(CC BY-ND 2.0)

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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