An examination of social and economic conditions in Barbados in the early 20th century reveals a high infant mortality rate, indicates neglect of the health of children and reflects the need for an attack on poverty. The paper argues that a number of poverty-related factors affected school attendance, including malnutrition. Although health concerns were drawn to the attention of authorities, positive action such as nutrition intervention for school children was undertaken by voluntary agencies. Official action against malnutrition as a disease of poverty was not forthcoming until 1937, when the first official school feeding programme was introduced into Barbadian elementary schools. This paper looks at the genesis of this scheme which has received scant attention so far. This preliminary analysis attempts to explain official inertia by reference to the Barbadian socio-political environment which generated little progressive social legislation before the 1930s. It lhowever posits not only the modifications taking place in Barbados as explanations of the change in health policy, but also discusses external factors such as pressure from the parent state and from international bodies.