A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


The essays were divided into two groups: those written by children who took meals (and therefore based their opinion on experience) and those written by children who did not take school meals (and therefore spoke only from hearsay, prejudice, etc.).


The children who take school meals

One part of the analysis of the essays consisted of counting the number of remarks made by each child, and grouping them into different negative and positive attitudes.

A child makes on an average 4-5 comments, of which slightly more than half are favourable, and the rest unfavourable to school meals. Expressed in percentages, 56% of all comments are favourable, and 44% unfavourable. This percentage of negative remarks seems rather high when made by children who speak from experience. The relation of positive and negative comments varies slightly from school to school.

Adverse comments are mainly centered round three groups of problems: bad quality or quantity of the food, unsatisfactory service, and cheerless atmosphere of the school canteen. These comments are made either in the form of direct criticism of school canteens, or as praise of home meals by stressing their advantages over school meals.

The following table shows the numerical distribution of these groups of complaints, together with the numerical distribution of reasons given to explain a favourable attitude to school meals:-

Table 2

comments of children taking school meals

Unfavourable to school meals Preferring home meals Favourable to school meal
% % %
Complaints about food, quality and quantity 64 Food better in Quality and quantity 62 Praise of food, quantity and quality 35
Complaints about services 18 Better services 4 Cheapness of meals 10
Complaints about atmosphere 9 Home atmosphere 29 It is awkward to go home 14
Miscellaneous 6 Miscellaneous 5 Better than sandwiches 7
Total comments 486 Total comments 168 Saves fuel, rations 11
Mother is at work, so can’t cook 4
Like the atmosphere, friends, learning good manners 8
Likes services 5
Miscellaneous 5
Total comments 837

As we have already said, there are more comments in favour of school meals than there are against them.

Three-quarters of all the unfavourable comments are made in the clear-cut form of criticism of school meals, and only one-quarter in the form of praising the home meal.

Among the complaints, two-thirds deal with shortcomings in quality and quantity of food, but only one-third of the favourable comments refer to this group.

18% complain about the service in the school canteen; only 5% praise it.

About 9% dislike the atmosphere of the dining centre; about the same percentage like it; but 29% of the comments which refer to the advantages of home meals mention the home atmosphere as an important attraction.

A number of comments are made in favour of school meals which do not deal with the meal itself. One-fifth of these deal with the advantage of not having to go home if one lives far away from school. In one-tenth the saving of rations, fuel, etc. is mentioned. Only a small percentage (4%) refer to the school meal as a good thing because mother is out to work and the child would have no cooked dinner otherwise.

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