AFAR-REACHING childwelfare movement is being staged in Canada under the plebeian title of a “Milk Campaign.” The plan originated with the National Dairy Council, frankly and unapologetically for the purpose of advertising its product, but in the lengths to which it has travelled the advertising idea has been rather lost sight of. Doctors, nurses, health departments, ordinary citizens who have no interest whatever in the dairy industry have taken it up as a practical thing for the community good. And the results are worth recording.
The experimental venture was made in the city of Toronto. The next will be in Calgary, and from there, judging from the growing interest, the work will probably spread to every sizable city in the Dominion so long as the country’s milk supply will stand it. In Toronto, the campaign was launched under the auspices of the Child Welfare Council, the Canadian Public Health Association and the National Dairy Council. It was a new thing, and while the Dairy Council naturally had faith in it, the local associations wanted to have unquestionable warrant for their action. So they went to Dr. Allan Brown, a specialist whose last word in child-feeding is accepted without question throughout the city and farther, and they asked him what he thought of it. He assured them that anything they could do to educate people, both children and adults, to drink a right quantity of milk every day would be perhaps the greatest thing they would ever have an opportunity of doing in the interests of public health, and he supported his assertions with facts about metabolism and vitamines and proteins until they were quite ready to believe him. They decided to go on with the demonstration and to organize a working committee. They called a meeting in the City Hall with representatives from the Boards of the Public and Separate Schools, the Home and School Clubs, the Local Council of Women, the Daughters of the Empire, the Women’s Institutes, the clergy of all denominations, the Health Department of the city, the Inspector of Factories, the Board of Trade, the Household Science Departments of Schools, the Salvation Army and all the charitable and welfare organizations in the city.
There has seldom been a more formidable company gathered in the interests of the baby’s bottle, but it had their unmixed sympathy.
THE committee wanted, first of all, to bring their educative campaign direct to the children themselves. It had been found that the reason a lot of children in well-to-do homes didn’t get milk was because they didn’t like it, or were at least indifferent. It seemed that considerable might be done to popularize milk if milk lunches could be served in the schools every day for a week. And with this once started, school boards or parents or mothers’ clubs might keep it up and poor children would get milk at school whether they had it at home or not. At the same time an effort would be made to stir an interest in
better health habits among the children in every direction, and buttons bearing the inscription “I drink milk” would be distributed to those who would drink milk and no tea or coffee. All that remained was to get the permission of the Board of Education to go ahead with the scheme.
To the amazement of everyone interested, the Board turned it down. They
would not use the schools for advertising purposes. They knew and they believed that most intelligent people knew all there was to know about milk. Anyway the children didn’t buy the milk; the committee had better go and educate the parents. Furthermore, the average citizen couldn’t afford a quart of milk a day for
every child and a pint a day for every adult in his household as the Health Department advised. It was useless to explain that the campaign would not increase the price of milk—the Dairy Council knew then that prices were to drop át the end of the month. It was useless to repeat what physicians had said about milk being essential to the health and development of growing children. And it seemed to carry no weight that the city’s own statistics showed over twenty-one thousand undernourished children in the public schools. So far as a milk campaign was concerned the Board would have none of it.
The Separate Schools however, took the matter up with enthusiasm. The Inspector, Brother Rogation, in his school work in the United States had learned what milk lunches meant to a child in both his physical and mental progress, and the Separate Schools now are busy weighing and measuring their pupils and compiling statistics concerning their tea and coffee drinking habits, in preparation for a month of milk lunches.
But it was the action of the Public Schools Board that staggered the committee for the moment. The possibility of being refused admittance to the schools was something that had not entered into their plans at all. They held another meeting—not to consider dropping the enterprise but to decide on some other means of reaching the children. They decided that if they could not go to the schools they would bring the schools to them by holding “milking demonstrations” -in the city parks—a performance novel enough to attract any city child. If sufficiently interesting people could be got to do the milking, the attraction might extend even to grown ups.
They first approached the Hon. Manning Doherty, Minister of Agriculture for the province, and asked him if he would open the campaign by milking a cow in the public view in front of the Parliament Buildings. He said he would do anything to show that his sympathies were with the movement. Mr. Stonehouse, the president of the National Dairy Council, gave a demonstration in another park, and to show that women also could appreciate the dignity of the practical side of the dairy industry, Dr. Margaret Patterson, a woman prominent in the social welfare work of the city, and Mrs. Ferguson, VicePresident of the Home and School Council, each volunteered to milk a cow. The demonstrations were held at four-thirty in the afternoon and children and parents and park loiterers and press people thronged to the scene of action. At the close of the demonstrations a procession of milk waggons trailed in and bottles of milk, fresh off the ice, were distributed among the children. No pedlar of icecream cones was ever wel-. comed more eagerly. People who had even believed that children weren’t naturally particularly fond of milk found that when it is available the average youngster is a veritable little human sponge!
DURING the entire week of the campaign, the three leading department stores gave their co-operation by putting on special demonstrations. In one of these there was exhibited a day’s set of meals for children through the various stages from one to seven years with lantern slides showing the hapless fate of young rats deprived of the milk vitamines in their food. A feature in connection with this demonstration which especially appealed to the thrifty housewife was an array of foods set out to show how a pint of milk compared in
energy value with the same money value’s worth invested in cabbage, honey, beefsteak, eggs and the common foods considered either necessities or luxuries in the average household.
One store put on a “Fountain of Health” exhibit —a steady flow of white fluid splashing in a marble bowl, and playing about it, in a miniature park, a number of mannikins representing Protein, Fat, Calcium and the various other essential milk elements.
Continued on page 62
Continued from page 61
• The third store offered to open a booth in its infants’ clothing section and to furnish free milk for every child who visited it, if the Department of Health would put two nurses in chargé to carry on a sort of standardization clinic. The place was equipped with scales and charts and a supply of health pamphlets and the children and their mothers thronged the place. It was a rather funny circumstance too that about a dozen times a day a mother, after listening to the nurse’s discourse on the importance of milk in a child’s diet, would remark, “Yes, I know it’s a good food but Johnny doesn’t like it. I never liked it either, so I don’t urge him.” And all the time Johnny would be appropriating the little paper cups handed out to him and drinking a pint of milk right under her eyes.
This shortcoming of the kindly, but weak-minded mother, who knows what is good for a child but doesn’t take any special trouble to see that he gets it was pictured very cleverly in a play, “The Milk Fairies,” given by fifty local children on the last day of the campaign. The “Undernourished Child” in the play leaves his breakfast and runs off to watch the parade. He comes in tired but still doesn’t want to eat and he has a mother who doesn’t insist. Tired and miserable he goes to sleep and has a dream in which the Guardian of Health sends fairies to make him strong and well and happy—and they all come out of a huge white milk bottle. At the same gathering “The Jolly Jester,” a ventriloquist with a monkey, carried the children completely away with him as he made not only the bottle of milk, but the carrot and every other wholesome healthbuilding vegetable talk, and tell just what it would do for them if they would only give it a chance. During the week a film, “The White Bottle,” was shown in one of the leading moving picture theatres of the city. The whole campaign has been a rather practical piece of educational work for both children and grown people, and the enthusiasm at every gathering would indicate that there will be at least a few thousand of the younger generation ardent followers of the new gospel of nutrition.
Nor was the effort limited to the school children. There are forty or more orphanages in the city, and during the campaign week the dairy council sent a quart of milk a day to each child in these institutions. They got permission to have a doctor speak to the employees in factories on the health value of milk and in some cases the factories tried out the milk lunch for a week—an innovation which factory managers who have tried it claim to increase the efficiency of the workers remarkably. And to make the whole scheme go as far as possible in the interests of public health, the city and provincial health departments held free clinics throughout the week.
Altogether this initial offensive in the national milk campaign has stirred things
as its originators could scarcely have hoped for. No one seemed to think of it as a welfare move for the poorer population of the city. It was made known in the beginning that the school records showed as many undernourished children in the Rosedale section as in the “Ward”; that malnutrition did not depend so much on wealth or poverty as on education—and the women in the well-to-do homes were just as anxious to learn as their less fortunate neighbors, perhaps a little more so.
Of course, there was the inevitable occasional “questioner.” One woman in a letter to an evening paper said:
“I have noted carefully throughout this whole campaign there has not been one word said about trying to bring down the price of this precious food. Our friends advocate that each child should drink at least one quart of milk per day. Now if they will just figure how much one quart of milk each day costs for my family of only three, to say nothing of the milk which the parents need to keep fit for the children, they can readily see what a hole it makes in the average pay envelope. Certainly we mothers want to give our children every drop of milk they will take but if the price were lowered a large increase in the consumption of milk would surely result.”
This mother was no doubt trying to see things straightly, but not knowing the comparative nutritive values of foods she thought of milk only as an addition to the regular food supply—not as a substitute for some of the other things she gave her children daily. Many a mother would give a child an egg when eggs cost sixty cents a dozen, but the egg according to the latest food authorities would probably not be worth as much to the child in actual nutritive value as half a cup of milk.
Regarding the fear that the general popularizing of milk might lead to an increase in the prices even the casual student of economics knows that a decrease in price would immediately cause farmers to decrease their herds with an inevitable scarcity of milk and consequently increased prices in a few weeks. The same result will follow a low demand for milk. Since Canada is denied a market for dairy products outside her own country, there is a danger of an overflow of milk on the home market and a sharp falling off of the dairy industry—an industry which is most essential to the whole nation, town and country alike, in paying off the national debt. If, however, the people of Canada can be educated to drink as much milk as they should drink for their own well-being, the dairy industry should find an adequate market at home.
And the campaign in Toronto was not just a week’s hysteria. The families who have tried the milk habit have evidently found it good for a number of grocers testify that their milk sales have been increasing ever since. One grocer has had to increase his daily stock from fifteen to forty bottles.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.