A History


School programs and initiatives targeting food, health and families are not new. They have long been part of public health agendas. But how did public health authorities promote health messages and manage the population’s health? How have messages about nutrition, food and health changed over time? How have they stayed the same?

Books and pamphlets held by Monash University Library's Rare Books collection tell us some of the story - it is one of change and continuity. These texts are from the late 1800s to the 1960s, when governments intensified their efforts to manage the population’s health, prevent disease and promote health. Good health was a national project, and governments saw schools as having an important role to play.

During the war, malnutrition became a societal problem. Governments began to focus on the diet of schoolchildren, elevating it as a concern for families and schools. Cadbury and other food and beverage companies provided branded texts for school projects. Today, Nestlé and other commercial interests are involved in developing resources for nutrition and food education.

Many organisations began to instruct the public, particularly mothers, on caring for families. Government, not for profit, commercial and media organisations all produced health resources. 'Advice to mother' publications offered menu ideas and advice on children's diets. These gendered texts addressed mothers alone. Public health campaigns use similar language today.

How effective have campaigns been? Who should be responsible for this work? And how far have we really come?

Continue with the exhibition to explore our past...