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British Food Journal Volume 46 Issue 4 1944

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 1 April 1944

Abstract

If this is the only voice that is heard it will be deplorable. These restaurants and many like them, but which do not actually carry the official title, could and should fulfil as essential rôle in peace‐time as under war conditions. They are almost universally popular—mass observation reports 96 per cent. favourable comments by those who use them—they serve nutritious meals, based, as are school meals, on a defined nutritional plan, they are economic, they show very low wastage figures. On the whole, the same is true of industrial canteens, now over 4,000 strong and increasing at the rate of 100 a month. In these two closely related types of communal restaurant we have the essentials of what might become, with competent handling and appropriate guidance, one of the most vital foundations of our industrial machine, the health and efficiency of the workers. In 1937 I saw what could be achieved in this direction. It was in Soviet Russia, and I was deeply impressed. I could long exceed my time by referring to other developments in practical nutrition that will, I believe, proceed at a greatly accelerated speed in the post‐war years as a result of what has happened during the war. One more matter I would like to discuss. It is not only of outstanding importance, but one on which most of the others depend. I refer to education about food and food values. Outside Soviet Russia, no such effort has ever before been made to teach a nation the simple facts of nutrition and what to eat as the publicity campaign carried on since the war began by the Public Relations Division of the Ministry of Food. Its success is not measured by the expenditure of many thousand pounds, but by the millions who tune in their wireless sets at 8.15 a.m. for the “Kitchen Front” and by the popularity of the ubiquitous “Food Facts.” The campaign might have been a dismal failure. Had it been presented in scientific jargon about calories, proteins and vitamins, its fate would have been sealed within a few months. As it was planned, the basic idea was to draw attention to the natural foods good for health and the best ways of serving them. It aimed at making the people “food conscious,” in the best sense of the term, and left all but the barest scientic outline to the experts, who know how to fill in the detail, and the cranks, who usually do not. It was sound judgment and, in my opinion, any continuance on an extensive scale of food propaganda after the war must have a similar basis if it is to lead to better feeding and better cooking and not result in half the nation becoming hypochondriacs and the rest faddists. It was touch and go in the United States, already for some years past very much more “food conscious” than we are. Commercial exploitation of the sale of special vitamin products has been on such a scale in recent years that to‐day every drug store counter is loaded with a bewildering choice of pills and tablets, capsules and candies, every one guaranteed to contain all the vitamin alphabet. The movement actually gained such strength that it threatened at one time to pervert men of standing in the nutritional field. There was a more serious aspect of this than the mere possibility that they would themselves acquire the tablet habit. There is about to be launched in the United States a vast nation‐wide and Government‐sponsored propaganda campaign for promoting sound health by ensuring good nutrition. The plans for this campaign are now approved, and it is shortly to open in every one of the 3,000 counties of the 48 States of the Union. The really important thing is that it is planned on the note “eat good food.” What is the message? Consume every day a pint of milk—more for children—an orange, grape‐fruit or fresh vegetable salad; one big helping of green or yellow vegetables; other vegetables (potatoes); whole grain products or “enriched” bread; meat, poultry or fish; at least three or four eggs a week; butter and other “spreads.” Then, “eat other foods you like!” Do you appreciate what it will mean when a nation of the size of the United States wholeheartedly adopts such a programme, as I am convinced it will, cost what it may? It will mean even more than a new era of health for millions who have in the past lacked the means to buy the food they need. It will call for a vast expansion of agriculture. Seventy per cent. more tomatoes and citrus fruits than are now eaten will be needed; over a third more eggs, nearly 25 per cent. more milk, and so on. In all, an increase representing at least 35–40 millions more acres of land under cultivation, and not an acre of it for cereal crops. I was surprised during a recent visit to Washington to find how great an interest is being taken in the agricultural implications of the new nutrition programme, and how many influential people have accepted them as indicating the general line of agricultural development there in the very near future. There is an atmosphere of anticipation. How they will bring the more expensive “protective foods” to the poorer families is not yet clear, but they have already shown by Mile Perkins' admirable Stamp Plan that simple and effective measures are not hard to devise. This ingenious relief measure would repay study here. We have certainly to tackle the same problem on an even wider front than at present, and the post‐war period will be every bit as important as the times to‐day. As Sir John Orr recently said in commenting on nutrition as a foundation of the New World Order : “A system which of set purpose in the interest of a few, limited the production and distribution of food and other necessities of life urgently needed by the vast majority of men is incompatible with human welfare.” In the wide expansion of the application of knowledge about food and its influence on health that will take place after the war, largely as a result of the striking successes that have followed its application to the problems of war‐time feeding, we shall need more active help from the doctors. America can show us the way. Her medical profession is solidly behind the nutrition “drive” in that great country. You will not find a hospital in the U.S.A. or Canada where the scientific planning of the diet of patients is not a first consideration. You will not find there that any sort of food is thought fit for nurses; I often think that the obsession of nurses in this country with purgatives of every type reflects more than tradition. I do not believe that such an historic innovation as the free distribution by the Government of cod‐liver oil and orange juice for every infant in the country would have been treated by the medical press of America as a matter worth no more than passing reference. I am certain the merits of an 85 per cent. wheaten flour of good quality would have evoked a warmer response from the American doctors, as a body, than they did here. But our doctors cannot be blamed if they do not know about these things, and the hard fact is that few outside the younger generations have the knowledge. I once remarked some years ago that a group of intelligent housewives could talk more sense about food values than a random selection of middle‐aged or elderly medical men. That is still a fair statement. The fault lies in our medical education. Apart from a few lectures during his physiology or bio‐chemistry course in the pre‐clinical years—and those of us who teach medical students know how little impression that makes—and seeing a certain amount of happy‐go‐lucky therapeutic administration of vitamins when he is in the wards, the average student has few opportunities to get anything like a proper comprehension of a subject vital to his whole life's work.

Citation

(1944), "British Food Journal Volume 46 Issue 4 1944", British Food Journal, Vol. 46 No. 4, pp. 31-40. https://doi.org/10.1108/eb011387

Publisher

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MCB UP Ltd

Copyright © 1944, MCB UP Limited