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Produce Business

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American Food & Ag Exporter

Cheese Connoisseur

Does ‘Lack Of Access’
To Fruits And Vegetables
Steer Kids To Fries And Juice?

Writing in USA Today, Nanci Hellmich pens a piece that runs under the headline, ‘Eat Your Vegetables’: For Kids, it Means Fries. She makes a succinct point:

Kids aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables, and when they do consume produce, they are more likely to eat french fries than nutrient-rich dark green or orange vegetables, a study shows…

The point is derived from a study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University and published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Associationunder the title “Correlates of Fruit and Vegetable Intakes in US Children.”

The issue of obesity in America and especially in children is a big one. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more:

Hugo Melgar-Quinonez
Ph.DAssistant Professor
OSU Extension Specialist
Department of Human Nutrition
Ohio State University

Q: Does your study in essence corroborate what we already know; that children are seriously deficient in consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, and the problem exacerbates exponentially into the teenage years?

A: Our research is consistent with other data and findings and further demonstrates this stark reality. We know in general children are not consuming enough fruits and vegetables, basically reflected in government and industry campaigns and efforts to promote consumption. Our research focuses on samples of children representative of the U.S. population, which gives a broad perspective to the problem we know exists and has been presented in smaller samples and with specific population groups.

Q: What astonishes you most through your research?

A: In assessing the numbers, one finding that strikes me is that two- to five-year-old children are at lower risk of not meeting produce consumption recommendations than older kids, yet everything is still relative. Only half of two- to five-year-olds meet the daily recommendations for fruit, and 22 percent meet the vegetable intake. The start point is not great, so there is a real loss there. But more worrisome, the older the kids get, the higher their risk for not meeting fruit and vegetable intake.

Children are not doing what we’d like once they move into the real world. The chances they’ll get the necessary amount of produce in their diets drop exponentially each year; for fruit, consumption levels decline from 50 percent to 26 percent in the 6- to 11-year-old age group, then skid further to 20 percent for 12- to 18-year-olds.

In terms of vegetables that decrease in proportion of intake is not as dramatic because the start point is so low. Still it drops to 18 percent for 6- to 11-year-olds, then to a little over 10.5 percent for 12- to 18-year-olds. It’s a really dismal situation, the risks that our children are going to be facing as they become older and grow into adults. Chronic diseases related to obesity, nutritional deficiencies and other health issues associated with low intake of fruits and vegetables are tremendous.

Q: In your produce consumption numbers, do you segment out the proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables versus juices and other processed items? Besides the nutritional issues, do you take into account sugar, fat and calorie counts of these items? It seems these numbers are quite distorted without doing so.

A: What we face in these numbers is exactly the situation you describe. We must not forget that when we’re talking fruit consumption, at least 40 percent is coming from fruit juices, not whole fruit and product with very low fiber content. And with vegetables, an average of 28 percent of consumption comes from French fries.

Q: That information is quite disconcerting. For perspective, how do these food choices compare to past years? Are we trending upward, downward, or flat-lining? (Excuse the pun!)

A: We analyzed four years of data in a continuous survey. Right now eight years of data are available from 1999 to 2006. When we did the study, we only had data for four years. Our study covers 1999 through 2002.

Is this a problem that’s increasing or not and what’s the trend going forward? This is a matter of further research. I don’t have the evidence for how the conditions we’re talking about have varied in the last 10 years. Especially in the last year, a lot could have changed.

Q: Why is that?

A: Children in households that are wealthier have a higher consumption of both fruits and vegetables, but especially of fruits. Under the current economic conditions, those already having lower consumption might be facing more difficulties accessing types of fruits they need.

Q: So there’s a direct correlation between a family’s income level and produce consumption?

A: One of the things we’re not able to document in this research, but has been shown in other studies working with similar data, is the fact that families or households in lower income levels have higher risk for being overweight or obese. That’s been shown for children as well. This suggests people in lower income levels have less access to fresh fruits and vegetables. I think of the last year, and I’m afraid what we’ve seen in produce consumption numbers is not as dramatic as what we’re experiencing now. In a few years when new data is released, we will be able to analyze how the economic crisis both in the U.S. and globally has impacted produce consumption.

Q: You note that children’s access to fresh produce is at the very least a contributing factor to the problem. How affective do you think these government-backed free fruit and vegetable programs in school systems here and in the EU will be in alleviating the problem?

A: It is good news to see aggressive action on this front. I’m optimistic about new initiatives to increase children’s produce consumption. The U.S. government is stimulating changes at the school level by making fresh fruits and vegetables accessible in elementary and middle schools, accompanied by changes in school cafeteria lunch programs. By high school, behaviors have been engrained. We must make access to fresh fruits and vegetables easier for all the kids, starting with the head start programs and daycare centers receiving support from state and federal government.

Q: Isn’t availability just part of the predicament? What can be done to change entrenched eating patterns and cultural behaviors?

A: We are big advocates of nutritional education, teaching kids why it’s important to eat produce and what consequences they face when they don’t do so. Nutrition education represents a great vehicle. In the U.S., we have a strong capacity already built into the system to move into those environments and expand nutritional food choices, such as with WIC and the free fruit and vegetable program. We need a comprehensive approach to tap into different venues.

If kids understand the value of produce but don’t have access to it, what is the point?

We call it the food desert, because if families don’t have access to a grocery store with affordable produce, or fresh fruit and vegetables at school to consume, even the knowledge and desire won’t result in change.

We need to work with children, parents, and schools in the neighborhoods. Where parents have two jobs, there are additional obstacles. For people leaving homes early and coming home late at night, if they need to commute 30 to 40 minutes to get to a grocery store, just knowing the importance of eating produce won’t necessarily help. Low income kids are at higher risk of becoming overweight or obese and access to produce is the base barrier to overcome.

Q: Don’t certain ethnic groups incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into their diets? Does assimilation into American fast-food culture adversely affect this?

A: In one of our tables, you see that Mexican American kids consume more fruits than non-Hispanic white children, and African American children as well. The difference with vegetables is very small. There is some ethnic cultural role here. I am a Hispanic immigrant, originally from Guatemala, and I’ve seen the rapid growth of the Hispanic community in the U.S. It occurred to me the Hispanic community is getting bigger both in numbers and in the individual’s size! It’s a reality… the longer we are here the heavier we get.

My wife is a nutritionist and I work in the Department of Human Nutrition. We have one daughter who is a vegetarian, another with allergies, and a teenage boy who’s carnivorous. We think how privileged we are in being able to afford to select the right nutritious foods for our children, and realize how many families are challenged to do so.

Q: Have you examined the influence of how and when meals are eaten through the day, portion size, and other patterns on produce consumption? For example, dieticians promote eating a healthy breakfast to drive energy and brainpower, maximize one’s metabolism as well as to curb appetite of junk food as the day progresses.

A: We are already working on new studies that look at the dietary intake of these same children over time. Are there consumption differences in breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks? Those without enough access to foods, or what we refer to as insecure households, have a higher proportion of kids missing breakfast and lunch. This is what we expect. The interesting finding is that it doesn’t apply to snacks. The insecure households have a greater snack intake.

The problem here is that the quality of snack is not one we want the kids to have. We found kids in insecure households are consuming snacks that are high in fat and sugar. If a larger proportion of poor kids are missing breakfast and eating fattening snacks, this is part of the equation for why they are at greater health risk.

The article in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association is brief, but the message is pretty strong.

It is an interesting study and many of its findings are not particularly shocking. Word that kids eat lots of french fries and drink a lot of juices is hardly going to cause shock and awe.

Still the study has its limitations. For example, it is not actually a study of what people ate. It is, instead, a study of what people remember they ate or claim they ate 24 hours later.

Still, there is something decidedly disturbing in data points such as this:

To identify the contribution of some groups of interest, vegetables consumed as french fries and fruit intakes from 100% fruit juice were generated for each analysis. Potato and fruit juice consumption have increased to contribute nearly one third of vegetable intakes and one quarter of fruit intakes, respectively, in the United States.

When you consider that most markets in the US are not 100% fruit juice markets, instead preferring cheaper blends, one realizes the situation is very bad and the opportunity to increase consumption is vast.

Where we start to have concerns is when the Professor starts drawing implications that are not supported by the research. For example:

One of the things we’re not able to document in this research, but has been shown in other studies working with similar data, is the fact that families or households in lower income levels have higher risk for being overweight or obese. That’s been shown for children as well. This suggests people in lower income levels have less access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Actually the data suggests nothing of the sort. In fact the data cannot possibly suggest anything of the sort; this is just the professor’s personal bias suggesting that lack of access is the cause of the problem.

Lack of access may be a problem, but it could also be a cultural matter or, perhaps low income correlates with lower education or lower IQ scores and these things explain lower consumption of produce. There also is a chicken-and-the-egg matter: Is the problem lack of access or is there no access because the community won’t support those kind of offerings?

In other places in the interview, Professor Melgar-Quinonez seems to stop speaking as a scientist:

We are big advocates of nutritional education, teaching kids why it’s important to eat produce and what consequences they face when they don’t do so. Nutrition education represents a great vehicle.

Dare we suggest that nobody really cares if the good professor is a “big advocate” of nutritional education — what we want to know is if his study indicated that children exposed to nutrition education behaved differently from those that were not so exposed. And on that issue the study is silent.

We need to work with children, parents, and schools in the neighborhoods. Where parents have two jobs, there are additional obstacles. For people leaving homes early and coming home late at night, if they need to commute 30 to 40 minutes to get to a grocery store, just knowing the importance of eating produce won’t necessarily help. Low income kids are at higher risk of becoming overweight or obese and access to produce is the base barrier to overcome.

Precisely what percentage of the US population has to commute “30 to 40 minutes” to get to a grocery store? We worked in the south Bronx and that wasn’t the situation there.

In fact the data in the study does not support many of the professor’s suppositions. Right in the abstract, for example, this is explained:

…non-Hispanic African-American children and adolescents consumed significantly more dark-green vegetables and fewer mean deep-yellow vegetables than Mexican-American and non-Hispanic white children and adolescents.

This seems to imply that culture is predominant and that if you have a family that feeds you collard greens, you grow up eating more greens. If anything, this seems to imply that culture trumps economics.

In many cases there are internal contradictions in what is being claimed:

I am a Hispanic immigrant, originally from Guatemala, and I’ve seen the rapid growth of the Hispanic community in the U.S. It occurred to me the Hispanic community is getting bigger both in numbers and in the individual’s size! It’s a reality the longer we are here, the heavier we get.

Yet in the whole interview, the Professor claims that the big problem is financial barriers to access to fruits and vegetables. If this is the case, we would expect the immigrant communities to become thinner as they become more affluent. But the Professor says they are becoming more obese, which implies, once again, that the issue is not access but culture.

Even when he may be correct, the point doesn’t grow out of the research study and it is not obvious that there is a solution:

We think how privileged we are in being able to afford to select the right nutritious foods for our children, and realize how many families are challenged to do so.

You would think the Professor had done a controlled study giving half the respondents gift cards to local supermarkets so that money was no object and the other half had to struggle, and that there was some sound science at the end demonstrating that the families with access to money fed their children more healthily.

He hasn’t… the research report says nothing on this subject and it is at least as plausible to think that if you give people more money they will eat more and get heavier as to believe they will eat healthier.


We value good research for the insight it provides into human behavior and the guidance it provides our industry institutions and individual businesses. We think, though, that researchers need to make crystal clear when they are reporting things that their research has evidenced as opposed to their own opinions or hunches.

We thank Professor Melgar-Quinonez for doing the research and attempting to explain it to the industry. We sincerely hope he will undertake research that might prove or provide evidence for his various positions. This research falls far from that ambition.

March Travel Schedule

From time to time we try to provide an update on where we have been and what we are doing. In the past we’ve defined our purpose in doing so this way:

A lot of the work we undertake to help the industry is not actually represented on the Pundit. In fact sometimes all the travel and time interferes with producing as many Pundits as we might like. We have, however, found that there are many ways to serve. We’ve been asked to provide an update from time to time on some of our activities outside writing the Pundit.

This time, though, we thought it would behoove us to list some of the things we have upcoming for the rest of March. This way those who would still like to register can do so. We only list public, association or educational events. Corporate events are disclosed only by the sponsor. The date we show is the start date of the event.

March 8, 2009 — Our first upcoming event is the United Fresh/Cornell University Fresh Produce Executive Development Program in Ithaca, New York. This is a great program and we are honored to be a founding member of the faculty, even if we are but a slave to academic superstar Ed McLaughlin. This year the program will be boosted by the appearance of both Bruce Peterson and Bruce Knobeloch. Our role will be wrestling with an event such as the financial crisis and analyzing how the various demands for a tactical response can be fit into a strategic framework. We are flying up this Sunday, so time is very short. If you want to squeeze into one of the few slots left, please call Victoria Backer at United Fresh or e-mail her here.

March 17, 2009Dave Weatherspoon at Michigan State University is having us up to speak with his class. In the past we’ve worked with MSU frequent-flyer king Tom Reardon, who has contributed to the Pundit here, and here. We also have done work via e-mail and teleconference for the classes of the pater familias of the Ag Econ program at Michigan State, Jack Allen. This is a student-only event.

March 19, 2009 — We will be feted at the fabled Rainbow Room perched high above Rockefeller Center in the center of The City of New York when we fly in to accept The Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity. As we mentioned here and here, we were previously honored with the Jesse H. Neal award, but this year we are nominated again for our work on the Salmonella Saintpaul crisis this past summer. Will lightning strike twice? Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott will be there, as will many Pundit family members and other members of the Pundit and PRODUCE BUSINESS teams. In addition, Myra Gordon, Executive Administrative Director, Hunts Point Terminal Cooperative Association, and Pundit pal Matthew D’Arrigo, principal of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York and co-president of the Hunts Point Cooperative Market, will be providing moral support.

March 19, 2009 —We will be making our first visit to Nashville since PMA held its convention there in 1989. We remember Dole treated the whole industry to a Kenny Rogers concert as he was Dole’s spokesperson at the time. Although the award ceremony means we arrive a little late, we hope to make up for it with a great close as the Pundit and industry guru Steve Lutz, Executive Vice President of the Perishables Group, based in West Dundee, Illinois, will share our assessments of how business can seize opportunities even in a challenging economic environment. Our moderator for the panel is consultant Kevin E. O’Conner, which is a good thing as the Pundit purchased a day with him at the silent auction held as part of the PMA Fit Fresh Perspective Women’s Leadership Event at PMA this past October. We are going to bring our certificate and set up a date. If you haven’t made a date to be in Nashville, please do so; the whole conference is themed around marketing disruptions and couldn’t be more timely. Here is what is going on. Here is why to attend. Here is the place to register.

March 23, 2009 —Ranch Bernardo Inn in San Diego is the site of the 73rd Annual Meeting of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League, and we’ll be presenting on the topic of sustainability — although a group that can hold 73 annual meetings must know a bit about being sustainable all by itself. The Pundit used to export a fair amount of grapes and so we are looking forward to meeting friends old and new. If you are a League member and haven’t yet registered, we would like a chance to meet you, so please contact Gabrielle Kirkland at the League and she will set you up.

March 24, 2009 —This year is the first year for a new Fresh Produce Marketing Strategies Short Course at UC Davis. We’ve written about this great new program before. However, as time has gone by, Dr. Roberta Cook, who simply exudes enthusiasm as she has been working on this premiere year, keeps making it better and better. Check out the updated brochure here. The Pundit will be playing several roles focusing in on all the dynamics that surround marketing and will have a terrific interactive session with Bruce Peterson. This is a real opportunity to do a marketing-focused short course on the UC Davis campus, conveniently located to so many in the industry. Help us make this first UC Davis Marketing Short Course a sell out by registering here.

March 26, 2009 —We next zip up to Seattle for the 63rd Annual Conference of the National Association of Produce Market Managers. Having cut our eye teeth on the Hunts Point Market, this one will be a special treat as is any opportunity to visit the Pike Place market. We’ll be speaking on traceability, the local vs. organic controversy, the roles that farmers markets, wholesale markets and large supermarket chains can play in the industry and lay out a vision for the future of the global food distribution system. Any members who haven’t registered yet can still do so right here.

So we’ll be writing Pundits in March from all across the country. If you can attend one of these great industry events, do so. There is no time like the present to increase your own value through study and networking.

If you are able to make any of the events, please don’t be shy and introduce yourself. The best part about a travel schedule such as we maintain is the people we meet. We hope to meet you at one of these March events.

Pundit’s Mailbag — Legality Of CCOF’s ‘Spiked’ Fertilizer Actions Questioned

To date we have run four substantial pieces analyzing the controversy surrounding California Certified Organic Farmers and its decision not to require recalls and not to reclassify land that had been treated with synthetic fertilizer as transitional:

  1. ‘Spiked’ Organic Fertilizer Raises Consumer Doubts About Organic Definition,
  2. Pundit’s Mailbag — Organic Industry’s ‘Situational’ Standard
  3. Pundit’s Mailbag — As ‘Spiked’ Organic Fertilizer Investigation Widen, Potential Grows For Weaker Consumer Confidence In All Fresh Produce,
  4. Pundit’s Mailbag — CCOF Speaks Out On ‘Spiked’ Organic Fertilizer

Now, in response to the last of those pieces in which Jane Baker, Director of Sales and Marketing for California Certified Organic Farmers, was kind enough to explain and defend CCOF and its actions, we received a number of meaningful letters. We will save some for another day but it seemed very worthwhile to review two very important letters.

The first comes from Lynn Moorer, who was the Director of Operations and General Counsel for the Organic Crop Improvement Association. The other comes from Sam Welsch, formerly the Executive Director of the Organic Crop Improvement Association and now the President of the certification organization he founded, OneCert, which, among other things, claims it is the only US certification agency with an office in India.

The two of them had a dispute with the board of OCIA that seems to have revolved around the role of the board as a policy-maker as opposed to a manager. That dispute led to their dismissal. But their passion for all things organic has never been disputed.

What is significant about their letters is that both are most unquestionably organic advocates:

Your analysis and commentary regarding CCOF’s response to the spiked organic fertilizer scandal hits the mark exactly.

CCOF’s explanation of its “balanced decision” not to require the land which had prohibited substances applied to it to be removed from organic production for three years, as required by the National Organic Program, demonstrates CCOF’s continued culpability in this scandal.

Either the products labeled as “certified organic” meet the USDA’s National Organic Standards or they don’t.

Whether or not the farmers knew that the fertilizer they were using was spiked with prohibited substances is irrelevant with respect to meeting the organic standards.

CCOF is not legally allowed to try to create some new mushy, middle-ground standard while ignoring the NOS.

CCOF’s continued refusal to require that the affected land be taken out of organic production indicates to me that a product claiming to be organic which bears CCOF’s name or seal cannot be trusted.

CCOF’s refusal is also grounds to have the USDA revoke its accreditation as a certifying agent for organic products under the NOP.

— Lynn Moorer
Lincoln, Nebraska

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -

I have appreciated your perspective and analysis of CCOF’s unwillingness to actually enforce the NOP regulations related to application of prohibited substances to land that produces organic crops.

I wanted to let you know that I am sharing your critique of CCOF with other certifiers — particularly point #3 from your response to the letter from CCOF.

Please give me a call anytime if you want to hear from a certifier who sees the rule as something that can be applied as it is written and does not like to see other certifiers weakening our collective credibility by failing to take difficult decisions when necessary.

— Sam Welsch, President
OneCert, Inc.
Lincoln, Nebraska

So there we have it. Two passionate advocates of organic, both knowledgeable as to the law (Lynn is an attorney), and what are they saying? Well the lawyer puts it this way:

Either the products labeled as “certified organic” meet the USDA’s National Organic Standards or they don’t.

Whether or not the farmers knew that the fertilizer they were using was spiked with prohibited substances is irrelevant with respect to the meeting the organic standards.

CCOF is not legally allowed to try to create some new mushy, middle-ground standard while ignoring the NOS.

CCOF’s continued refusal to require that the affected land be taken out of organic production indicates to me that a product claiming to be organic which bears CCOF’s name or seal cannot be trusted.

CCOF’s refusal is also grounds to have the USDA revoke its accreditation as a certifying agent for organic products under the NOP.

One wonders what USDA intends to do about this dispute.

For the industry the question is this: If a consumer as passionately devoted to organics as Lynn Moorer starts to feel that the CCOF certification cannot be trusted, can that possibly be good for the organic movement?

Many thanks to Lynn Moorer and Sam Welsch for sharing their thoughts with the industry.

Perishable Thoughts —
Winners Are Those Who Dare

Scott Danner, Chief Operating Officer of Liberty Fruit Co., Kansas City, Kansas, has been among the more prolific contributors to the Pundit in general, and this Perishable Thoughts section in particular. Among the general pieces he has contributed are these:

Pundit’s Mailbag — Traceability Is Part Of The Food Safety Solution

Pundit’s Mailbag — When It Comes To Traceability, We Have The Technology

And his contributions to our Perishable Thoughts section include these:

Perishable Thoughts — Resolve To Succeed

Perishable Thoughts — What Is Leadership?

Perishable Thoughts — Wisdom Begins In Wonder

We have never been modest in our admiration for Winston Churchill, believing him to be the second greatest democratic leader of all time — only Lincoln, whose hatred for war imbued his very soul, can be deemed greater. So when Scott Danner sent over a quotation identifying Winston Churchill as its author, we were enthused… except we have read a lot of Churchill and were suspicious, as we do not recall Winston Churchill saying any such thing.

Here is the quote:

“He who dares wins.”
— A saying with indeterminate origin.

We knew the only thing to do was call in Pundit aide-de-camp James Elmer and ask him to research the situation:

Just as we found while researching the quote “something for nothing,” there are endless versions of “He who dares, wins” that use the words “dare” and “win” to suggest boldness and action.

Contrary to the claims of modern Internet message boards, “He who dares, wins” was never a quote spoken by Winston Churchill. As you will soon see, the origins of this adage predate Churchill’s birth by 111 years.

“Who dares, wins” has been the motto of at least 8 special forces elite units around the world. The British Special Air Service was first to use “Who dares, wins” as their motto, and its selection is popularly attributed to Lt. Col. David Stirling in approximately 1942. The motto is coupled with a flaming sword (though often described as a winged dagger) and is used as their cap badge. All members of the Greek 1st Raider/Paratrooper Brigade wear similar unit insignia depicting a “winged sword,” and a scroll runs across the sword and wings with the motto “Who dares wins” (Greek: Ο ΤΟΛΜΩΝ ΝΙΚΑ — O Tolmon Nika), in tribute to the Free Greek Special Forces that served with the 1 SAS Brigade during World War II. Special Forces groups that use, or have used, our quote as their motto also include:

● United Kingdom, Special Air Service
● Rhodesia, Rhodesian Special Air Service Disbanded 1980
● Greece, 1st Raider Paratrooper Brigade “Ο τολμών νικά” (pronounced O tolmon nika)
● Australia, Special Air Service Regiment
● New Zealand, Special Air Service
● France, 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment
● Israel, Sayeret Matkal Hebrew: “המעז מנצח” HaMe’ez Menatzeakh
● Belgium, 1st Parachutist Battalion

Several books and movies also bear the title, “Who dares, wins,” which deal mostly with the history and exploits of the British Special Air Service.

Also appropriating use of the quote are a British game show, and a character on the British sitcom, “Only Fools & Horses,” named Del Boy, who made it his catch phrase.

“Who dares, wins” is also the alternate motto of the Yarbrough/Yerburgh family of England. A historically based, dramatic account of its existence by at least 1867 comes from a contributor to The Yarbrough National Genealogical & Historical Association’s “Yarbrough Family Quarterly,” who writes this tale titled: “The Motto” (pg.136) about the emergence of Robert Armstrong Yerburgh as a British Conservative politician. [1st printed in YFQ Vol. 15 No. 4, pgs. 8-13] He was intended for a peerage in 1916 but died before the patent was completed. His second son Robert, who also took to a career in Conservative politics, was elevated to the peerage as Baron Alvingham in 1929.

We begin to delve deeper into the history of where and when this quote came from with Leonard Roy Frank’s “Quotationary,” which in most cases does a masterful job of giving accurate attributions to quotations from noted authors, but says only this of our quote which appears in their category on “Daring”:

“Who dares, wins”
— saying

The book “Dares: Webster’s quotations, Facts and Phrases” filled with facts and quotations on “dares” has also thrown in the towel, attributing authorship as “anonymous.”

In their 2007 book, Four Tragedies: Ajax, Women of Trachis, Electra, Philoctetes, Peter Meineck and Paul Woodruff translated four of the seven complete, surviving tragedies by Sophocles (The four are named in the book title). Our quote appears in their translation of Philoctetes, written by Sophocles in 409 BC. On line 81 their translation of the ancient Greek spoken by the character of Odysseus matches our quote perfectly. Unfortunately, this is an anomaly. No other translations of Philoctetes, and there are plenty available, give the translation of line 81’s ancient Greek as this same modern English phrase.

In 1881, Sir Theodore Martin translated The Works of Horace: Translated Into English Verse, with a Life and Notes. Among Horace’s great surviving works are the Epistles, two actually, the second in Latin is titled “Epistularum Liber Secundus” from 14 BC. In “Epistle XVII — To Scaeva.” Sir Theodore gives us these familiar lines:

“Who fears he’ll fail sits still. But has not he,
Who dares and wins, done well and valiantly?”

“Qui audet adipiscitur” is the Latin translation of “He who dares, wins” but does not appear in the original latin text of Epistle XVII.

Once more, just as we saw in the previous example of the translation of Sophocles’ “Philoctetes,” the modern translator has used the modern phrase of “who dares, wins” to help us to understand the ancient Latin. Again we have only a single instance of a modern translation of an ancient work using a modern expression to illuminate ancient concepts. No other translations of Horace’s “Epistle XVII — To Scaeva” use the phrase “who dares and wins” in their interpretation.

In 1867 we find the earliest publication of our entire quote, “He who dares wins,” in “The Works of Louise Mühlbach in Eighteen Volumes.” Louise Mühlbach was the pen name of Clara Mundt, a German writer who is best known for works of historical fiction, such as the one in which we find our quote titled, “Louisa of Prussia.” It appears in volume 7 of “The Works” during a conversation in which the character of Victoria is enlisted to “make an effort” for the welfare of Austria; to use her feminine wiles to discover the intentions of a deceitful France allying itself with “Prussia, Austria’s mortal enemy.”

In 1876 A.O. Wright (pg.16), editor and proprietor of the Wisconsin Journal of Education, translated a list of Hungarian proverbs for its Journal and includes our quote in English: “Who dares, wins”, with the caveat: “the rhyme in this proverb is untranslatable”. Our translation woes from older, eastern tongues to English continue.

“Who dares, wins” has also been claimed to be a German proverb, a Danish proverb, an Icelandic proverb, an ancient Spartan proverb and on and on. I suspect that in some of these cases, just like in the ancient Greek and Latin examples, the translator has used a modern parlance to illustrate an ancient or foreign concept that they were attempting to translate. Sayings similar to our quote which are meant to inspire courageous action most certainly exist throughout all of recorded human history.

In 1878, You Play Me False, our quote appears in a novel in three volumes by Mortimer and Frances Collins. Mortimer Collins was an English writer and novelist writing largely for periodicals in London. In volume I of the novel, Mr. and Mrs. Tubbs are enjoying breakfast when a letter arrives addressed to Miss Lisle, who had recently left the company of their home. On the seal of the letter is a crest, described as containing a hand holding a spear with the motto: “Who dares, wins.”

In 1922 The South Atlantic Quarterly ran a historical account of “The Election of 1876 in South Carolina” by Francis B. Simkins, a historian, and once president of the Southern Historical Association, from Columbia University. The sentence containing our quote: “In a passionate attempt to convert the convention to his views (Martin W. Gary) accused the majority of timidity and the Charleston delegation of connivance with (Daniel H.) Chamberlain. ‘The man who dares, wins; not he who holds back’ cried the South Carolina Danton.”

In 1934, Hungarian author and playwright Jenő Rejtő wrote the operetta “Who Dares Wins”. Rejtő was born in Budapest in 1905 and studied drama before traveling across Europe. When he returned to Hungary he became a successful playwright and went on to write adventure novels based of his journeys abroad. His novels parodying the Foreign Legion gained him the most success and often featured his own brand of bizarre humor. While seriously ill, he was captured from a hospital by Hungarian fascists and, labeled as a subversive, forced to work in a labor camp where he later died in 1943.

Despite the instance mentioned in the Wisconsin Journal of Education of “who dares, wins” being a Hungarian proverb, and Wikiquote including “He who dares, wins” in its list of “Hungarian proverbs as: Aki mer, az nyer, and while we can say definitively that a native Hungarian used our quote as the title of his operetta, we cannot give much credence to our quote having originated in Hungary.


Variations over time on the theme of “He who dares, wins” are the most interesting aspect when compiling the history of this quote. As this chronology of examples will show, this quote has existed in many adaptations and in many varied types of media. The latter half of the 19th century seems to have been a high point in its usage.

A newspaper archive search of regional U.S. papers dating back to the 1700’s turned up these examples of variations on our quote: “Who dares, wins”.

● “Who dares not wins not” 1888
● “In sailing, as in most other things, it is the man who dares that wins” 1897
● “The Man Who Dared” — a play continued running on State St. in Trenton, NJ 1904
● “The man who dares is the man who wins” 1911
● “The love that dares all and wins all” 1917
● “…dares all and wins all” 1930
● “…is the policy of one who dares and wins” 1933
● “Youth school body dares, wins hour” -article title 1936
● “He is now in British special service with a unit trained in sabotage beyond the enemy lines. The unit badge is the winged dagger with the motto ‘Who Dares Wins’.” Announcement of Sergeant James H. Horsfield’s wedding 1945

In 1767, The Constitutions of the Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons printed, among quite a bit of other information on Free Masonry, an Ode, “written by a member of the Alfred lodge at Oxford, and set to music by Mr. Fisher, and performed at the Dedication of Free-Masons’ Hall.” The Ode ends with this as its final chorus:

“What pain he shuns, who dares be wise”
“What glory wins, who dares excel!”

Odes were popular in England in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. These few lines bear a faint similarity to our modern quote and they very well could be evidence of a lineage. This book was a popular work and was reprinted for at least the next 51 years, examples exist from 1777, 1802, and 1818. Some other Odes include: The Progress of Poesy, Ode to the West Wind, Ode to a Nightingale, Ode on Melancholy, Ode on a Grecian Urn, Ode on Indolence, Ode to Autumn

In 1832, a fine example is found in a poem titled “Press On!” from American poet, journalist, editor and newspaper founder Park Benjamin Sr. The poem could be one of the most rousing pieces of prose on courageousness ever written and was published countless times during its heyday. Read it in its entirety in “< The Cambridge Book of Poetry and Song: Selected from English and American Authors.”

“He wins who dares the hero’s march”

In 1851 the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents published in their “Annual Report” a list of musical compositions delivered to the librarian of the Smithsonian Institution in the year 1850 (in compliance with the Act of Congress in 1846 establishing the Smithsonian Institution, for those hoping to secure a copyright). Among these works was the song: “The Hero Who Dares is the Hero Who Wins”, which was sung at the grand complimentary ball given in honor of Major General Zachary Taylor, on the 5th of February 1850 with words by Chas. D Stewart, Esq. and music by composer Austin Phillips.”

In 1873, William Vicars Lawrance opens his poetic novel, “Ellina, the Bride of Montross,” with an authorless three-line poem on its title page that, just like our modern quote, figuratively equals: “nothing ventured, nothing gained”:

“Who dares and does not win,
Fails not so far as he who never dares,
Or, daring wins unworthily.”

In 1878 prolific comic writer and dramatist Sir Francis Cowley Burnand published, “One-and-three!: By (that Distinguished French Novelist) Fictor Nogo” containing this line:

“Who dares, escapes; who escapes, wins.”

In 1885 The Kansas City Review of Science and Industry published the commencement speech given by Judge Solon O. Thatcher (who was also a candidate for Governor of Kansas) titled, “The Fanatic” at Washburn College in Topeka, Kansas. Near its end, Thatcher makes this comment:

“Even in the lower plane of life we look with interest on the man who dares to take a risk, and if he wins we applaud.”

In 1897 Joseph Le Roy Harrison Compiled “With Pipe and Book: A Collection of College Verse” which included a tongue-cheek-poem titled “Sword Song,” by Harry K. Webster. Devoted, as the title suggests, to his sword, of which he is evidently quite fond.

“But when mad and hot the battle fares,
When he who wins is he who dares
Then bright’s the robe my mistress wears
My sword! My love!”

In 1898 “The Albany Law Journal” ran a curious article titled, “Lawyers Many Ruses — Preponderance of Evidence and Law is Not Always Decisive,” with a snippet of advice for a “skillful and daring attorney” who, with a bit of experimentation, can “overcome a weight of damaging evidence more certainly than anything else that could be devised.”

“The lawyer who dares something unusual in his efforts to clear his clients frequently wins success.”

Brazenly, this line continues: “where, if he had relied on the usual forms of evidence, an almost certain conviction would have resulted.” It seems that daring action in war and espionage is as advantageous on the battlefield as it is in the courtroom.

In 1900 Charles Benjamin Newcomb says in the preface to “Discovery of a Lost Trail” that there is “Nothing new in this book. It is a simple study of the strange and beautiful thing which we call life.” I would have to agree, at least in part, due to his inclusion of this familiar line:

“The man who dares and perseveres is the man who wins”

In 1904 the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association, a youth association established by Brigham Young as an official auxiliary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, published an article titled “The Cause For Worry” in their official magazine, “Improvement Era.” In the notes section of the article, in a paragraph discussing self help and self reliance, Joseph K. Smith writes that:

“It is he who dares to be himself and to work by his own programme, without imitating others, who wins.”

Having already found an instance of “Who dares, wins” in the legal field, on June 10, 1905, we find our very first professional medical adaptation of the quote. John Eggerton Cannaday M.D. wrote an article titled, “Gunshot Wounds of the Abdomen,” for the “Medical Record, A Weekly Journal of Medicine and Surgery.” Not an easy read, trust me when I tell you that no other instance of our quote caused such a visceral reaction in this researcher:

“Who dares not, never wins a race.”

Also in that same summer of 1905, weekly newspaper The Outlook included the short story “Summer Vesper Sermons” by American Congregationalist theologian, editor, and author Lyman Abbott who says:

“The world is won by battle, not by surrender; and he alone wins who dares take hard blows, and if need be to provoke them.”

In 1907 The Arena included a book study of “The Kingdom of Love” by Henry Frank, which “deals with love from the viewpoint of a critical scientist, an introspective philosopher and an imaginative poet, and is thus, we think, the broadest and most comprehensive study of the master dynamic force of creation that has been written.” One of the lines from this lovely book reprinted in its review:

“He wins who dares. The world loves a hero and deplores a coward”

We’ll end this chronology in 1916 with “Patriotic Essays,” by Elroy Headley. It is a collection of essays listed under titles taking their names from the virtuous principles, ideologies and Americana buzzwords on which our country was founded. The essay with our quote is called “Right Living” and has a great opening line: “The world has a standing advertisement, ‘Wanted: the man able and willing to accomplish results.’” Our quote appears almost exactly as the version we began our research with:

“The man who perpetually hesitates accomplishes nothing; It is the man who dares who wins.”

We end here because as we have followed this quote from 1763 to 1916; we have seen its full progression from its archaic form that includes references to winning and success being a product of daring and action, into the quotation it has become today; short, pointed, comprehensible and inspiring to all: “Who dares, wins.”

Even though, we cannot give original authorship credit of our quotation to Winston Churchill. He was responsible for speaking and writing many more that we can. In the spirit of “Who dares, wins”, we give you this Churchill original:

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities, because as has been said, it is the quality which guarantees all others.”

“Alfonso XIII”
Great Contemporaries
By Winston Churchill
Published by Butterworth, 1937
Pg. 218

And how ‘bout a Shakespeare for good measure:

“I dare do all that may become a man;
Who dares do more is none.”
Macbeth, I, vii, 44
William Shakespeare

The quote can be viewed here:

Four Tragedies: Ajax, Women of Trachis, Electra, Philoctetes (Google Books)
By Sophocles, Peter Meineck, Paul Woodruff
Translated by Peter Meineck, Paul Woodruff
Published by Hackett Publishing, 2007
267 pages, Pg. 193, Line 81

The quote can be purchased here

Four Tragedies: Ajax, Women of Trachis, Electra, Philoctetes (Barnes & Noble)
By Sophocles, Peter Meineck, Paul Woodruff
Translated by Peter Meineck, Paul Woodruff
Published by Hackett Publishing, 2007
267 pages, Pg. 193, Line 81

This exhaustive study is revealing, not least for pointing out throughout western history the notion that daring leads to progress has infused our literature and our culture. Of course, this leaves open the question of whether for any actual individual or organization the sentiment expressed by the quote is actually true?

Some might argue that daring is analogous to the infamous “bleeding edge,” as opposed to the “leading edge.”

We are not certain that there is some preponderance of evidence that those who dare tend to win. Many who dare probably lose. We are certain, however, that almost all the winners are those who dared.

In this sense it may be analogous to investing. If you concentrate your investments, you are at great risk. Most people who select one single stock to own do not become rich; they go broke.

Yet almost all really rich people concentrated their wealth.

Think of it this way, any sound financial planner would have told Bill Gates to diversify his Microsoft holdings when he had a million dollars’ worth of stock that accounted for 100% of his net worth.

That he did not was, in fact, imprudent. It is also why he became the world’s richest man.

Many thanks to Scott Danner for sharing this quote and to James Elmer for his diligence.


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