A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46



Whether the amount of food taken by an individual is satisfactory or not, depends not only on a sufficient intake of nutrients, but also on a subjective feeling of satisfaction, which is influenced by psychological factors, such as taste, prejudices and habits. To find out what this subjective feeling is, all the informants were asked “Do you consider the food you are getting at the moment enough to keep you fit? If you are not getting enough, what is lacking?”.

Before the answers to this question were analysed statistically, they were analysed qualitatively. Interviewers found that the answer “I don’t keep fit on the food I get” had two different meanings. One group meant that they felt tired and unfit, and thought it was a deficiency in their food which was to blame. Another group had strong views about what a healthy diet should consist of; if they could not obtain what they considered necessary, they thought themselves inadequately nourished, whether or not they felt any ill effect.

Unfortunately, there is no statistical material available to show the numerical significance of these two groups. It is also impossible to say to what degree people think they are not keeping fit, or the psychological effects of such an opinion.

These factors must, however, be kept in mind when reading the following results.

A considerable percentage think that they do not get enough food to keep them fit.

Table 8

Do you consider the food you are getting at the moment is enough to keep you fit?

Male Female Total Under 20
% % % %
Yes 39 58 46 75
No 50 31 43 15
Uncertain 11 11 11 9
SAMPLE 2970 1520 4490 539

More men than women feel dissatisfied, and older people more than the younger ones. The latter fact indicates that a general feeling of well-being or otherwise might influence the decision as to whether the foods eaten keep one fit or not.

The following tables shows which foods people miss the most.

Table 9

If not enough what is lacking?

Male Female Total Under 20
% % % %
Milk 14 28 18 17
Fruit 7 20 11 23
Meat or bacon 64 29 55 32
Fish 10 11 10 8
Eggs 25 24 25 23
Fat, butter 25 29 26 30
Cheese 4 1 3 2
Vegetables 4 3 4 6
Sugar, sweets 28 17 25 19
Not enough variety 11 11 11 12
Not enough vitamins 3 3 3 2
Too starchy 2 1 2 4
Not enough 16 8 14 12
Unable to get extras besides rations 3 13 6 1
Not enough points 8 8 8 5
Others 28 19 26 19
No answer 2 5 3 10
All who do not think the food is enough or who are uncertain 1793 638 2431 133

Meat is the main food which men are missing (mentioned by 64%); eggs, fat and butter, and sugar are each mentioned by about 25%. About equal numbers of women (in each case, about a quarter of the sample) say that they miss milk, fruit, eggs, fat and meat. It is quite striking how much less important meat is to women than to men.

Young people miss the different foods to about the same degree as do the adults; but they miss fruit more and meat less than adults.


Comparison with the 1942 inquiry

Experience gained from the 1942 inquiry suggested a slight change of the relevant questions in the present inquiry, but this made a comparison of results more difficult.

In the 1942 inquiry, the following answers were obtained to the question “Do you consider the food you are getting at the moment is enough to keep you fit?”

Table 10

Do you consider the food you are getting at the moment enough to keep you fit?

Summer 1942

Male Female
% %
Yes 56 77
No 44 32
Total answering 4,308 1677

This table is not completely comparable with table 8, as the category “uncertain” was not recorded in last year’s inquiries; even so, the results indicate that people are less satisfied with the food situation in winter 1942-43 than they were in the summer of 1942. But before taking these results at their face value, the following possibility should be considered. People may have felt less vigorous, during the winter investigation than during the summer; a winter’s hard work, the black-out and bad weather probably all tended to make them feel run-down. It is quite possible that this feeling of tiredness was a attributed to the food situation. Two other results indicate that this theory is not without foundation.

In Table 8 we found that the young people feel much more satisfied than adults with the food they got, but most of the different food items are taken by the same number of young people as is the average for adults, (similar results were obtained in the summer investigation). Young people do not seem to eat more food items but they are certainly more vigorous physically, and they have no need to blame the food situation for ill-health. It is different with the adults. A number of them do not feel very fit; somebody asks them a question which suggests a connection between not feeling fit and the food situation, and on the spur of the moment this suggestion is taken up and given as a cause for not feeling fit. In other investigations, we have noted a tendency for informants to attribute a certain fact, the cause of which they were not sure, or had not thought about, to any probable cause suggested in the discussion.

The results obtained from the question “If not enough, what is lacking?” cannot be directly compared with those from 1942 inquiry, as the question was then asked in quite different form. However, in both inquiries the food missed more than anything else by men was meat; women as a group were not so keen on meat, but they missed milk and fruit much more than the men as a group.

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