Happy Women's History Month!
Dr. Flemmie Pansy Kittrell was a Black pioneer for nutrition and home economics during the 20th century, heading the movement to fix agriculture practices and diet habits across the globe. Her outstanding research projects focused on low-income minority populations with nutritional deficiencies. Her work has helped millions of people worldwide improve their health and wellbeing.
On December 25, 1904, Kittrell was born in Henderson, North Carolina. After graduating high school, she attended Hampton Institution (now known as Hampton University), where she received her B.S. in Home Economics. Then, with some encouragement from one of her professors, Kittrell enrolled at Cornell University. In 1930, she obtained her Master’s in Science and Home Economics and later her Ph.D. in Nutrition in 1938, making her the first African American woman to receive a doctorate in the nutrition specialty from Cornell.
Kittrell honed in on her passion for home economics and nutrition by founding Howard University’s first-ever nursery school. At this nursery, she researched nutritional requirements for black infants. Her research at this facility later led to creating the popular Head Start programs that exist today.
Kittrell began her first international global nutrition in 1947 and worked with the U.S. Department of State on a nutrition project in Liberia. With this project, Kittrell coined the term “hidden hunger,” when a person eats nutrient-deficient food that makes them feel “full.”
She received a Fulbright award to conduct nutritional research in 1950 at Baroda University in India, where she established the school’s first department of home economics. During her time at Baroda, she taught food and nutrition courses while managing the exchange program for Indian women to travel abroad. Kittrell also spent time in Japan, Russia, Papa New Guinea, and Congo to facilitate similar research projects.
Kittrell received several awards and accolades for her work in nutrition and economics. Hampton University recognized her as an outstanding alumna in 1955. In 1961, she was given the National Council of Negro Women’s Scroll of Honor and received an achievement award from Cornell Univerity in 1972. Two years later, the University of Carolina in Greensboro gave her an honorary degree.
After her retirement in 1972, she worked as a Visiting Fellow for Cornell University for four years and later as a one-year Senior Research Fellow at Hampton University. She was also an active member of the American Association of University Women and the Program Development Committee.
On October 3, 1980, Kittrell passed on at 75.
Kittrell’s influence in the health and wellness industry has inspired many, including theEATschool, to create a platform to encourage and assist these communities in improving their health on a national and soon-to-be global level.