In the 1930s, just before the start of World War II, Britain had approximately 46 to 52 million residents. Unfortunately about 70% of their food was imported on a yearly basis. Over 50% of meats, cheese, sugar and fruits had to be shipped in.
As the war got closer in 1936, the British government tried to better prepare for a food rationing system that caught them off guard during the World War 1. A Food Department was set up to do the project planning and ration books were printed by 1938 and ready to be handed out.
The Food Rations in World War II
After preparing well in advance and learning from previous mistakes, the food rations went rather well for the British during the second world war. The government this time was actually able to honour every single food ration coupon, while keeping the food prices from raising only 20%. Seeing that food prices jumped over 130% in the first world war, this was a huge victory for the government and citizens alike.
What was a surprising development is that British families actually began eating healthier during this time. Through education provided by the government, along with being forced to produce frugal meals for dinner each day; the people of Britain were forced to learn and practice healthier eating habits.
Ministry of Food
When the British declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939, the very next day, the Ministry of Food was reformed. What was interesting was that the Ministry of Food did not simply award or hand out these ration coupons. Limiting what people could and could not eat was not enough, the Ministry of Food actually took the time and effort to educate the British people on healthy eating habits.
These ration coupons were so important to the people of Britain, yet the government needed to truly maximize the effect of these vital food rationing coupons. So they broke down nutrition to the simplest of levels, so that every member of society understood what basically was good or bad foods.
This was even taken a step further, where the Ministry of Food would send out pamphlets recommending recipes to be made for this week’s rations. By the end of the war, many housewives were well educated in nutrition; with a few even setting up in stores for demonstrations on how to cook specific recipes without luxury items like butter.
The Ministry of Food eventually grew to over 15,000 employees and even went as far as to regulate where grocers received their food. Grocers were instructed to purchase their goods from the nearest wholesale provider to reduce distribution costs and petrol. Secret depots were even created, locations unknown to the public, but stored with reserves of food in case of an invasion.
The War was Won!
Many people remember the brave men who sacrificed their lives during this war. It may be just academic talk, but many scholars also proclaim that the victory over the Germans was due to the home economics set in place by the government.
Having a stable, well nourished country is something that was constantly overlooked throughout the years when analyzing the war, but I guess that is the ultimate compliment in a way. A sound system in place usually goes unnoticed.