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Food, Farmers, and Fundamentals: 1941

Food, Farmers, and Fundamentals

HENRY A. WALLACE, Vice-President of the U.S.A., An Article in Survey Graphic, July 1941Henry A. Wallace, 33rd Vice President of the United States[View Image]
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Henry A. Wallace, 33rd Vice President of the United States

Thanks to the ever-normal granary and the efficiency of modern farm production, we can approach the problem of nutrition more constructively than during the last war. There seems little likelihood that we shall have meatless days, or days without sugar. The problem today is to use our soil, our farmers, our processors, our distributors, and our knowledge to produce the maximum of abounding health and spirits—a broad foundation on which we can build all the rest of our hemispheric defense.

As goal number one we can wipe out deaths caused by dietary deficiency. No longer need we have pellagra.

As goal number two we can reduce those diseases such as tuberculosis toward which insufficient food predisposes.

To speed this task we must shift our agriculture more and more toward producing those foods which are rich in vitamins, minerals, and the right kind of proteins. We have started producing more of these foods, such as milk, eggs, tomatoes, dried beans, pork, etc.,so that we may have an abundance, not only for ourselves but for Britain, to meet every possible kind of contingency. We are using the cow, the hen, and the pig to extract from our huge supplies of corn stored in the ever-normal granary the Vitamin B, the Vitamin A, the good minerals, and the proteins which will furnish the nervous energy to drive us through to victory. Some people may say, “Why haven’t the farmers produced more of these fine protective foods before?”

The reason is simple. Protective foods demand more hard work from the farmer than the simple energy foods. A pound of dry matter in poultry, dairy, or meat products costs five or ten times as much human energy to produce as a pound of dry matter in wheat. The bottleneck has been the lack of consuming purchasing power. Today our factory payrolls are at least a third higher than they were a year ago, and the payrolls per employed person about 14 percent higher, but the cost of living of factory workers has gone up only about 3 percent. This means that millions of people can now spend more on protective foods.

At the same time, we must recognize that there are many millions who get paid very little and who are getting no more than they did a year ago. We are trying to take care of these people through the Surplus Marketing Administration, the free school lunches, low cost milk, and the Food Stamp Plan. The federal action programs have taken care of a large proportion of the ten million people in this country who are most needy. The increased payrolls are helping perhaps an additional ten or twenty million. But there still are perhaps twenty million people whose diet is woefully inadequate.

Many people of unusual intelligence in the high income brackets eat improperly. We must get nutrition information into every household, rich and poor, in the United States, so that the new knowledge of food may express itself in more vigor of living. Already we have made a start. We have state nutrition committees, schools, clinics, hospitals, public health nurses, as well as the Food Stamp Plan, the school lunch program, and various other federal programs for the distribution of food. Now we must focus the agencies available to our hands so that adequate nutrition standards can be put into life, so that there will be no more hidden hunger gnawing at our vital organs, so that our nerves will be strong and resolute.

Our program is just as good for peace as it is for war. It will never end until the soil and the farmers of the United States are fully geared to the job of bringing the maximum of health to every individual. At the moment we are taking an especial interest in seeing that the people of Britain, as well as our own, have an adequate supply of protective foods. And I am hopeful that the day will come when we shall cooperate with the governments of Latin America to help solve the unusual problems which exist there in agriculture, population, and nutrition.

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Wallace, H.A. Food, farmers, and fundamentals. Survey Graphic, 30(7), 390. Retrieved [date accessed] from /?p=11144.

Source:  New Deal Network,, (March 11, 2014).

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