Biographical / Historical
The American Relief Administration (A.R.A.) was formed by the United States Congress in 1919 as a relief mission to Europe after World War I. Herbert Hoover, future president of the United States, was the program director. A humanitarian organization, A.R.A. was tasked with alleviating the suffering of European children in the years after World War I.
In 1919, a special Children's Relief Bureau was organized within the A.R.A. Many European children being cared for were orphans, and many had suffered malnourishment during the war. Hoover insisted that aid be provided to them. Although the new A.R.A. European Children's Fund (E.C.F) was an outgrowth of the A.R.A. which acted as an agent of the United States government, the European Children's Fund was a private volunteer organization for the promotion of charitable causes. While the E.C.F. did not have a formal charter, the food supplies were donated from the Congressional appropriation and the president's National Security and Defense Fund. The E.C.F. operated for five years, from 1919 to 1924. It was headquartered in New York City with a branch office in London and began operations in August, 1919. Field missions were located in Finland, Estonia, northwest Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia. The E.C.F. relied heavily upon the assistance and cooperation of other organizations such as the European Relief Council, Red Cross, American Friends Service Committee, and the Y.M.C.A. A system of central and regional warehouses was maintained . Children needing aid met the following requirements: registration through a school, investigation by a local committee, and a physical examination by a local physician. All feeding of children was done in special kitchens setup at institutions, orphanages, or hospitals. In most countries a noonday meal was served and every child was issued a card which was punched for each meal received.
Child-feeding programs in Austria began on May 5, 1919. The method for feeding and selecting children in Austria was developed by Dr. Clemens von Pirquet (1874-1929) of Vienna University Children's Hospital. Pirquent's method was known as the Pelidisi formula which is the ratio between the sitting height and the weight of the child. The Pelidisi norm was expressed as 100, but with children it was 94.5 since they did not carry as much fat. Children with a Pelidisi of 94 were considered underfed and those under 93 were admitted to a feeding center immediately. Examinations of children were repeated at frequent intervals.