Stephanie Tennyson: Final Project

[Comment for Stephanie: Did the food guides actually benefit American farmers, or was the USDA simply the vehicle for this scientific research? I wonder if the USDA actually had the interests of farmers in mind. -Allison]

For my final project, I was originally going to examine the development of unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance beginning with civil war applications to current use. As I begin to examine the topic, trying to focus on the science of field per Dr. Abbate’s instruction, I quickly realized that it was the technology aspect that I was most interested in and most readily accessible.

Therefore, I am now examining the development of nutrition science as a field. Specifically, my project will look at the field beginning just before World War II (1939-1945) and the creation of the National Nutrition Conference by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1941. This Conference, led by three women researchers in the field, developed the first Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for the American public. These guidelines were born out of rationing for the war, but this policy tool eventually led to what we know today as the Food Pyramid.

As the field matured, various interest parties ranging from associations to government entities, including the National Academies of Science (NAS), have had a role in its development. However, despite centuries of progress, confusion still abounds regarding RDAs and nutrition. To the average American, it seems as though nutrition guidance is frequently changing. Based on mainstream media reports, I’ve always wondered is there science behind nutrition science? Also, what role did the interests of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), whose purpose it is to develop and execute policy on farming, agriculture, and food, have on RDAs and their creation/implementation?

Annotated bibliography:
Marion Nestle. Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health.Berkley, CA: The University of California Press,2007.
A nutritionist, Nestle examines the formula for a healthy diet, and how that message is constantly challenged by the interests of the food-industrial complex, which makes the bulk of its profits by selling relatively expensive processed foods. She demonstrates that public relations and government lobbying result mixed messages about the values of certain foods and how this confuses consumers.

K. Dun Gifford, “Dietary fats, eating guides, and public policy: history, critique, and recommendations.” The American Journal of Medicine. Volume 113, Issue 9, Supplement 2, 30 December 2002, pp. 89-106

Harvey A. Levenstein . “The politics of nutrition in North America.” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. Volume 20, Issue 1, 1996, pp. 75-78

Mary C. Egan. “Public health nutrition: A historical perspective.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Volume 94, Issue 3, March 1994, pp. 298-304.

Martha Kaufer-Horwitz, et al. “A comparative analysis of the scientific basis and visual appeal of seven dietary guideline graphics.” Nutrition Research. Volume 25, Issue 4, April 2005, pp. 335-347.

Patti S. Landers. “The Food Stamp Program: History, Nutrition Education, and Impact.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Volume 107, Issue 11, November 2007, pp. 1945-1951

Carole Davis, et al. “Past, present, and future of the food Guide Pyramid.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Volume 101, Issue 8, August 2001, pp. 881-885

Primary sources:
Robert R. Williams. “The applied science of nutrition.” Journal of the Franklin Institute. Volume 237, Issue 1, January 1944, pp. 21-36.

C.A. Elvehjem. “Seven Decades of Nutrition Research.” Science. Vol. 109, Apr. 8, 1949, pp. 354-358.

The National Nutrition Conference. Public Health Reports (1896-1970), Vol. 56, No. 24 (Jun. 13, 1941), pp. 1233-1255.

Rowena S. Carpenter. “National Nutrition Conference for Defense National Nutrition Conference for Defense.” The Scientific Monthly. Vol. 53, No. 1 (Jul., 1941), pp. 87-91.

Thomas Parran. “Plenty of Good Food Will Build a New America Plenty of Good Food Will Build a New America.” The Science News-Letter. Vol. 40, No. 5 (Aug. 2, 1941), p. 74

“36-Day Supply of Calories Saved by Eating Peeled Wheat 36-Day Supply of Calories Saved by Eating Peeled Wheat.” The Science News-Letter. Vol. 40, No. 4 (Jul. 26, 1941), p. 55

“Extension of Food Stamp Plan Raises Question of Food Dole Extension of Food Stamp Plan Raises Question of Food Dole.” The Science News-Letter. Vol. 39, No. 22 (May 31, 1941), p. 340

“Diet Standards for Americans of All Ages Announced Diet Standards for Americans of All Ages Announced.” The Science News-Letter. Vol. 39, No. 22 (May 31, 1941), pp. 339+347-348

W. H. Sebrell and Walter Wilkins. “The Role of the Health Department in the National Nutrition Program The Role of the Health Department in the National Nutrition Program.” Public Health Reports (1896-1970). Vol. 58, No. 21 (May 21, 1943), pp. 803-813.

Research obstacles:
The obstacles I’m currently encountering including locating original texts to examine the science around the time. I need to investigate further USDA archives or archives from NAS. I'm certainly open to any suggestions. I do know that AAAS also looked at this field in the past, but am unaware of any archives they might have.

Another problems is that the field is also very broad and contains a wealth of information on very specific topics. Therefore, I’m trying to narrow down the time that I am examine (earlier in the field around WWII), but am concerned that I might miss important pieces of the field development either prior to this period or after it. I'm also focusing on a specific policy tool or development—RDAs and what became known as the food pyramid.

Science in Context Paper: PDF

Final Paper: PDF

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