Mr. John Spargo has confirmed the statement made by Hunter, that so many children in America are underfed - not the 60,000 or 70,000 in New York City alone, but about 3,000,000 in the United States, every city furnishing its large contingent, and he describes the conditions as terrible. In the Independent (1905) Spargo says:
"Principals and teachers have told me of children giving out, fainting from hunger and, when they were given wholesome and nourishing food, which they ate ravenously, being nauseated because they were not used to it. In one school where there is a special class of backward, defective children, provision has been made for feeding them. A fund has been created by the teacher, to which the children contribute their pennies, the balance being made up by the teacher and the principal. Every day at ten o'clock the children get a cup of hot milk each, and three times a week they get the products of the Girls' Cooking Class. Only after feeding them could the teacher begin to make progress with these defectives. She assured me that careful study and inquiry had led to the conclusion that there was generally if not always, under nourishment and consequent physical underdevelopment to account for the mental underdevelopment of the children. Experiments in Boston have shown similar results".
* New York Medical Record, August 19, 1905. * Medical News, April 15, 1905.
In his book, "The Bitter Cry of the Children," he repeats these statements. After a year of investigation, it was found that the number who go to school breakfastless is not so great as in London, but the alarming thing is the constant underfeeding with its resulting physical deterioration. In one school alone, of 865 children examined, 104 had had no breakfast at all, and fifty-four had had some bread and tea or coffee. In 1908, Chicago reported 15,000 school children always hungry, and 5,000 go to school without breakfast, and there is a demand for funds to feed these children of worthless parents.
It is proper to remark in this place that the cry of the American Indian, in periods of starvation, is to the effect that his "wife and children have nothing to eat." It is a rule in savage life, under such circumstances, to feed the young men and let the children starve. Perhaps the men take it by right of might, but it is also probable that it is a custom leading to tribal survival. If the young men starve themselves in favor of the infants, no one would be strong enough to search for food when the winter is over. Child starvation is the next thing to infanticide, which we will discuss later. The point to remember is, that this savage custom still survives in civilization - the wage earner is fed so that he can work. If he weakens, the whole family starves. As a rule it is found that the children are the greatest sufferers in the poverty stricken class, and are sacrificed unconsciously to keep the father going. We must expect to find a greater underfeeding among the school children than among their parents. It is quite likely that the estimate of 3,000,000 underfed children in this country is well within the limits of fact.