Eating In during the Second World War

Eating In during the Second World War

The Second World War proved an ideal opportunity to improve the nation's diet. With widening knowledge about nutrition and a healthy diet, Lord Woolton, the Minister of Food, was aware the war could cause malnutrition.

As early as 1937, plans to introduce rationing were being developed. The amount of imported food decreased. Some dried or tinned food reached Britain from abroad, but at irregular intervals. Bread and potatoes formed a large part of every meal. An adult's weekly allowance was approximately 500 grams of meat (including offal and sausages), 60g of butter, 60g of cooking fat, 125g of vitamin-enriched margarine, 90g of cheese and one egg. Tea, sugar, sweets, biscuits and chocolate were also rationed. Milk was considered very important. An allocation scheme ensured that pregnant women and children received their essential requirement. Dried milk and eggs were used as supplements to fresh ingredients. Fish and game were not rationed.

In addition to ration coupons, 'points' were issued for tinned and imported food. These could be spent as people wished, for example on one tin of sardines worth six points, or two tins of fruit each worth three points. This discouraged hoarding, and gave people some choice.

The government strongly encouraged the cultivation of fruit and vegetables. A large propaganda campaign was launched that included the slogan, 'Dig for Victory'. In London, every park, front garden and patch of land was turned into an allotment, many of which still survive.

In London and other cities, there was much less choice than there was for those living in the country. In rural areas, there was always a chance of catching a hare, pheasant, rabbit or trout; there were rowans, blackberries and mushrooms to pick and more room to grow a variety of vegetables.

The government gave much advice on food and eating during the war. Adverts, broadcasts and music hall sketches all helped people to accept rationing and shortages.

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