PHS Monday Seminar Featuring Dana Landress, UW Dept Medical History and Bioethics

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@ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

The Hunger Wars: Politics and Public Health in the 1960s U.S. South

Learning Goals

  • Critically engage with the recent political history of poverty-induced malnutrition
  • Contextualize food sovereignty as a central tenet of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement
  • Examine actors, institutions, laws, policies, that shaped food access across the 1960s
  • Connect historic legislation and policies with contemporary food policy debates

In 1941, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt listed the “freedom from want” as one of the four central tenets of an effective democracy. By 1948, access to food and freedom from sickness were outlined as basic principles under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And yet, a survey of medical literature from the period shows a drastic decrease in publications concerning hunger and malnutrition. During this period, many state boards of health in the U.S. South ended their classification of diseases related to malnutrition – no longer recording vitamin deficiency diseases such as pellagra, rickets, or scurvy in their vital statistics registers. Yet the failure to document such diseases did not indicate their total disappearance. By the 1960s, a cohort of journalists, physicians, civil rights activists, attorneys, and public health professionals helped to refocus poverty-induced malnutrition in public discourse with far-reaching political implications. This talk will examine the recent political history of hunger, examining actors, institutions, and laws, and policies that shaped food access and legislation in the 1960s U.S. South.