A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


The broad headings used so far are a rough means of classification and comparison. In order to give a clearer picture of the kind of comment included in each group, a further analysis was attempted, which is shown in the following table. Each of the sub-groups is illustrated by quotations. In any interpretation of these groups, it should be kept in mind that one can only deduce possible trends, as the sample is by no means complete.

Table 3

Quantity and quality of food mentioned as argument

Against School meals For preferring home meals For favouring school meals
% % %
Food details, and cooking in general 40 33 20
Quantity 14 9 6
Variety 8 7 4
Choice - 7 4
Number of all comments made 486 168 837

Food details and cooking in general

“The school dinners are all right, but I prefer to have peeled potatoes?” (Girl 12 )

“The quantity are all right, but I prefer to have peeled potatoes.” (Girl 12)

“I always get plenty of vegetables and good soup at home, and other people, but for me when my mother has extra pint of milk I have delicious pudding. You can’t get that at school meals.” (Boy 13)

“Sometimes the meat hash has a very unpleasant and peculiar taste rather like Brasso, but we can never make up our minds what is the cause.” (Girl 14)

“I think if the dinners at school were properly cooked I would go back again, but meanwhile I think I am better off going home.’’ (Girl 13)

“The school-provided meals are brought ready cooked in tins. I would rather have a kitchen stove or some other cooking convenience installed in the schools and the meals cooked there.” (Boy 14)

“I like the school dinner when we get apple pie or rhubarb tart or prunes, and when we get dumpling or roly-poly we always want more.” (Boy under 11)

“The pudding is normally very nice, as it is made very light. The soup, too, is tasty, and I think most people like it.” (Boy 12)

Food details are much more often mentioned as an argument against school meals than in favour of them. This seems to indicate that more children dislike certain dishes they get than are very enthusiastic about individual courses. It is difficult to decide how far this criticism is due to cooking which is not quite up to the mark, or to difficulties inherent in mass cooking (especially if the food is not cooked on the premises, but is kept warm in containers brought from a central kitchen), or to the fact that children have to learn to eat new dishes


“When there are good things to eat - for example, apple pie - there is very little, but when there is food that is not nice, one can always get as much as one likes.” (Boy under 10)

“Often too much is put on the plate, the food is left, and is thrown in the pig pail.” (Boy 13)

“The best thing about home dinners is that we can have as many helpings as we like until the food is finished.” (Girl 12)

The main problem of the children who get too little is not so much that they don’t get enough to fill them up, but rather that it is not possible to get extra helpings of things they like, a wish which is satisfied relatively easily in the home. There are, of course, children who feel very satisfied with the quantity: -

“The food at school is usually quite good, and the quantity is also satisfactory.” (Boy 15)

However, nearly four times as many say they are dissatisfied with the amount as say they have enough.


“School meals would be all right if only they were not always the same.” (Girl 15)

“The dinners at home are much more varied than those at school, because in school it is the same routine of dinners every week.” (Boy 14.)

There are also some more positive remarks:—

“The cook tries not to make the meals monotonous, and so tries her best to fix up a meal that the people have never or very seldom tasted before.” (Girl 13)



“I can get what I want at home, but at the dining centre I have to take what is put down to me.”(Girl 12)

“I prefer my dinner at home because my mother often makes special puddings I like very much. (Girl 11)

“My mother knows what I like and what I don’t like. I nearly always get something to make up for what I don’t of course, not really good for me.” (Boy 13)

It is true that the meal in the home is often adapted to the children; but it may he a good thing, from the nutritional point. School meals teach children to eat other than what they like.

The criticism directed against the actual meals served in canteens falls under the headings; quality, quantity, variety and choice. Though some criticism has to be expected,, and is unavoidable, it seems that the quality of the food in a number of canteens could be improved. Such an improvement might also remove some of the criticism about quantity of food.

Criticism due to the impossibility of catering for individual taste in a canteen, cannot be avoided. But it might be worth while to take up the question of the variety of meals, to see if improvements would be possible.

Criticisms connected with choice show that the school meal service carries out a most important educational function in fostering tastes for nutritionally important food items.


18% of all the comments criticizing school meals were concerned with the bad service, and only 5% among those who favoured school meals praised the service.

There are two main criticisms - meals could be served in a more appetizing manner, and they should not be cold.

“The shepherds pie is always cold. I think it is meant to be warm.” (Girl 13)

“The advantage of going home for dinner is that it is still in the oven and very hot when I get it.”

“I think it would make an improvement if the meals were hot and the knives and cutlery were a bit cleaner.”“ (Girl 12)

Those who praise the service say among other things, that the food is hot and quickly served; but the remarks mainly refer to the women who serve, saying how kind they are, and what a good job of work they do; also the pleasure the children get from serving themselves.

“The school dining centre is handy. It always has the dinner ready to serve when the children come in.” (Boy 12)

“The ladies who come to serve the school dinners are doing a great service to the pupils, but this service is mostly unappreciated; these poor women have all the washing of the dishes to do, and even although they are paid this makes very little difference.” (Girl 14)

“I have my dinners at school. I also serve. I like serving very much.” (Girl 13-14)

It seems that improvements could be made in the serving of meals; it would certainly be an advantage to avoid letting the meals get cold.


Home atmosphere

29% of all those expressing their preference for home meals say they hold opinion because they prefer the home atmosphere.

“At home you have a fire, and a nice cosy chair, and also have your house shoes.” (Girl under 10)

“On the whole I prefer my meals at home. there is not at school.” (Girl)

“There is the great advantage of being able to listen to the wireless.” (Girl)

“A good thing about having your lunch at home is that you can have a little rest from all the bustle of school life.” (Girl)

“At home we have quietness, but at school everybody seems to be shouting.” (Boy 14)

“The boy opposite is filthy, tends to grab the bread. You find proper table manners and conduct at home.” (Girl 13)

“Sitting in the dining hall I feel out of place and that everyone is watching me.”(Boy 12)

“Prefer dinner at home, because in school when you lift the spoon to your mouth the person across from you stares at you.” (Girl 12)

“if I take my dinner at school I see very little of my family. There is no other meal in the day when the family sit down to table all together, because usually breakfast is a hurry and at supper everybody is coming in at different times.” (Boy 13)

“To come home in the middle of the day is a pleasant interval to break up the day, and often makes you feel better for the afternoon.”(Girl)

All these arguments show that the atmosphere of the school meal has an inherent disadvantage as compared with the home, though two possible forms of compensation exist.

“I would rather have my dinner at school with my chums than have it at home myself. It’s better fun.” (Boy 13)

“Many children who did not know how to behave at table have learnt nice manners by sitting with other children and watching them.” (Girl 14)

Especially for only children, or for those whose mother is out at work, the school atmosphere is more cheerful and friendly than an empty house. No doubt it is good for the children with bad manners to be in company where they can improve themselves by following the example of others. School meals might also help to overcome the inhibitions of those children who are so shy that they do not want to eat in public.

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