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Humble, wholesome beginnings

While research had been undertaken at SickKids from nearly the beginning, SickKids Research Institute was not officially created until January 1, 1954. It was a vision of innovation and a desire to establish a coordinated, collaborative research environment; however this might not have happened without the foresight and ingenuity of our early researchers…

At the beginning of the 1900’s, malnutrition was the leading cause of infant death in Canada. It wasn’t lack of food that was at the heart of the problem, but lack of nutrition. Common baby foods at the time, like farina (wheatmeal) were finely-milled and thus stripped of the most nutritious parts of the grain. Another challenge was that these porridges often sat around unrefrigerated for days at a time and ended up swimming in illness-causing bacteria. Little thought had been put into the quality of food given to children who were in between breast milk and adult fare and as a result, many fell ill or died. Three physicians from SickKids –Drs. Theo Drake, Frederick Tisdale and Alan Brown – developed a solution.

Together, they created Pablum for infants and Sunwheat biscuits for toddlers, both of which provided the essential minerals and vitamins children required in a convenient and economical format that needed no cooking or refrigeration.

Proceeds from the sale of both recipes were generous. In fact, those profits managed to sustain their labs and research projects for decades. Enough money was raised that the three created a fund, the Paediatric Research Foundation. Money from that fund not only supported the creation of SickKids Research Institute in 1954, but also provided one half of the budget for the entire hospital that same year.

Pablum: a healthy cereal with a big bite!