What did children eat and drink?

Chefs in a National Kitchen handing out food The National Kitchens were opened during World War One to provide affordable, nutritious meals for war workers and poorer people

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The cost of food more than doubled during the war years. Some prices went up by even more than that. A pint of milk cost a penny in the early 1900s. Just after the war, people were expected to pay sixpence a pint.

A Ministry of Food poster that reads, "Don't waster bread! Save two thick slices every day, and defeat the 'U' Boat" Bread and flour were hard to come by and government posters encouraged people to eat less bread

As the fighting dragged on, fresh fruit, vegetables and meat got harder to find. There were even stories of butchers selling dead cats!

Bread and flour were very hard to get. By 1916, bread was being made from ground-up turnips. The new Ministry for Food put out a leaflet with ideas for making pastry, cakes and buns from potatoes, and even 'chocolate potato biscuits'.

Mothers had to be inventive in the kitchen. Wartime cookbooks had ideas for foods like 'potted cheese' - leftover crumbs of cheese, mixed with mustard and margarine, baked in the oven and served with biscuits or toast. Another recipe used cooked fish, rice, and breadcrumbs to make 'fish sausages'.

'The Win-the-War Cookery Book' carried this message: 'Women of Britain … Our soldiers are beating the Germans on land. Our sailors are beating them on the sea. You can beat them in the larder and the kitchen.'

Ration books and new foods

Advert for tinned tuna One food advertised as 'quite new' in Britain was tinned tuna

In 1918, Britain brought in a system of rationing, where what food there was got shared out more fairly.

Everyone was given a ration book that showed how much food they were allowed to buy, including sugar, meat, flour, butter, margarine and milk.

Even King George and Queen Mary had ration books. Richer families discovered what it was like to go hungry. Some of the poorest families, however, found rationing left them better-fed than before the war.

Wartime also produced some new foods: dried soup powder, and custard that just needed water adding. There was even a recipe to make Christmas pudding, using 'egg substitute'.

Teachers' notes

Teachers' notes to accompany the 'What did children eat and drink?' section

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