The War Years
The War Years
The first few months of the war weren't too bad as rationing had not yet been implemented and people had not eaten into their "stocks' of luxury foods.
All this was to change in the New Year when food shortages really hit the British public.
After 1940 Britain suffered a shortage of nearly all the more appetising and popular staple foods. Meat, fish, butter, eggs and sugar were scarce.
Supplies of imported fruits dried up and many varieties disappeared. People were compelled to satisfy their physical needs by filling up with larger quantities of bulky and less attractive vegetable and cereal foodstuffs such as flour and potatoes.
The Ministry of Food gave advice to the British public about how to make the best of the food that was available.
This included radio broadcasts, public cookery demonstrations and free recipe leaflets. The Ministry even invented 'Dr Carrot' and 'Potato Pete'.
These cartoon characters were introduced to encourage people to eat more vegetables.
To start with, only a few foods were rationed, but more foods were included as the years passed. The food ration varied throughout the war and additional allowances were given to specific groups such as elderly or very young people. Each person was issued with a ration book that allowed them to buy a designated amount of restricted foodstuffs.
A 'point' scheme was introduced for un-rationed foods. Each person was allocated a number of points and a selected range of foods was given a point value. The consumer could choose how to spend these points. Those who were able often grew their own vegetables and kept hens to supplement their rations.
Special arrangements were made for very young children and expectant or nursing mothers to receive orange juice, milk and cod-liver oil from special welfare clinics. When oranges were available (very rarely) children under six years of age were entitled to receive 1lb each per week.
Despite the privations of rationing and the restricted number of foodstuffs available, the general health of children improved and on average they grew to be taller and heavier than children before the war.
The simple truth was that many people were better fed during wartime than before the war years. The wartime food shortages forced people to adopt new and better eating patterns.
The 'National Loaf' was introduced. It was made with more of the grain than was used in white bread, resulting in a brown loaf. White bread was no longer readily available and brown bread became a staple food.
Most people ate less meat, fat, eggs and sugar than they had eaten before. But those people who had a poor diet before the war, were now able to increase their intake of protein and vitamins because they received exactly the same ration as everybody else.
The end result was that during the war infant mortality rates declined and the average age at which people died from natural causes increased.
Overall, people actually became healthier during the period of rationing than they had been before the war.