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Grace Carlson

Calories Are Not Enough

(1 June 1946)


From The Militant, Vol. X No. 22, 1 June 1946, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).



In the period between World Wars I and II, public health agencies spent tremendous amounts of time and money and energy in trying to make the American people “vitamin-conscious.” Posters in schools and plants, health leaflets, nutrition classes for housewives, hammered away at the idea that people needed vitamin-rich foods in order to stay strong and healthy.

The phrase, “hidden hunger,” was coined to describe the condition of the hundreds of thousands of American men, women and children, who were getting enough food to eat, as measured in calories but not enough of the protective, foods — milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and eggs.

In Food and Life, the 1939 Yearbook of the United States Department of Agriculture, the dangers of using calories as the sole measure of inadequate diet were pointed out in the foreword:

“People of a certain age will remember the furor about calories early in this century. Apparently the only thing that mattered about food in those days was whether you got enough calories—or too many, so that you became fat; and even today, undernourishment or starvation is still thought of as failure to get enough calories. People can starve to death, however, even when they eat too much food, if some element necessary to life is lacking in the food they get.”

There is once again a “furor about calories” and the question of vitamin lacks and “hidden hunger” has been pushed into the background. The science of nutrition has dropped back four decades!

“Hidden hunger” is still a serious problem among the poorly-paid workers of the United States, but this problem has been overshadowed by the terrible specter of open hunger, which today threatens so many millions of European, Asiatic and Indian peoples. This is the state to which capitalist war and destruction, greed, inefficiency and mismanagement have brought the peoples of the globe!

In this extremity, where millions of people are getting only one-third to one-half enough calories to sustain life, the American people are being urged to cut down on their calories and share their food with the hungry. The desire to “feed the hungry” is shared by all decent people. American workers and farmers are no exception.

But American workers and farmers are not going to subscribe to the theory of the editorial, writer of the St. Paul Dispatch, who said on May 18 that the United. States is “a nation whose ailments are more from overeating than from undereating.”

Compare this scientifically-chosen diet, which the National Research Council recommends, with the food allowances of the average American working-class family and see whether overeating is the great American problem!

This should be the goal for the people of this country and every other country in the world under any kind of a decent social system. Because enough calories are not enough!


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