What shops were on the high street?

A collection of First World War ration books A collection of World War One ration books

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Lots of food was sent away to feed the soldiers fighting in the war. There was also less food arriving from other countries because ships bringing supplies were often attacked by German submarines called U-boats.

Food became very expensive. People panicked and soon there were very long queues outside shops.

The first school dinners

A young boy and girl

School dinners were introduced because lots of children were missing school to queue for food. Mothers also queuing hadn't time to cook dinner and children were going hungry.

Government posters encouraged families to save food so there would be more to feed the soldiers fighting.

In the countryside, many men and farm horses had been sent off to war. They were replaced by women who worked hard to grow the much-needed food. They called themselves 'The Women's Land Army'. Conscientious objectors (men who felt morally opposed to fighting) also worked the land.

Many children helped too, but without horses to pull the heavy ploughs it was really tough work.

'Don't waste it'

In 1918, new laws set by the government introduced rationing, a way of sharing food fairly. Sugar, meat, flour, butter, margarine and milk were all rationed so that everyone got what they needed.

Each person had special ration cards, even King George and Queen Mary.

The cards could only be used at certain shops. Families had to say which butcher, baker and grocer they would buy food from.

The rules were very strict. Anyone found cheating could be fined or even sent to prison.

Poster saying Eat Less Bread

Before rationing, the government used posters like this one to discourage people from wasting food.

Start Quote

Look well at the loaf on your breakfast table and treat it as if it were real gold because the British loaf is going to beat the German”

End Quote A wartime leaflet
Grow your own

People grew fruit and vegetables in their own gardens too. Surplus produce was preserved as jam, pickles or chutney so there would be more to eat in the winter.

People were often hungry, but nobody starved.

What foods were rationed during the war?

A diagram of rationed food during World War One Rationing was an idea which was not a popular with the British public. But as the war went on, food became scarcer and scarcer, and in 1918 the Government finally introduced rationing (2lb of meat, ½ lb sugar and ½ lb total fats each a week).
A diagram of rationed food during World War One. As well as rationing, the government also tried to control the price of food, and anyone who sold above the set rate could face fines.
A diagram of rationed food during World War One. The price of vegetables was not controlled by the government during the war and they became very expensive. As a result people had a lot less fresh fruit and vegetables in their diet.

Teachers' notes

Teachers' notes and classroom ideas looking at the high street 100 years ago.

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