A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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Any successful future planning of the nutrition of the nation will depend on a thorough knowledge of:-

(a) the actual diets of individuals .

(b) the sociological factors, economic, historical, geographical and psychological, which determine the actual diet.

A. Research on the diet of the Individual

It is suggested that the individual and not the family should be the unit for investigation. Research carried out so far indicates that the diet of different members of the same family varies considerably. Reconstruction policy is most likely to be concerned with certain special groups. It might therefore be wise to carry out dietary surveys of such groups as:-

(a) Expectant mothers.

(b) Nursing mothers.

(c) Children of different age groups.

(d) Adults and adolescents in a wide range of different occupational groups, including both manual and sedentary occupations.

(e) Housewives.

(f) Particular occupations such as miners.

The method described in this report seems to be the most suitable for collecting information on the food intake at home. Where meals are taken outside the home appropriate allowances would need to be made, obtained, where possible, by actual measuring.

Other additional information collected should be:-

The method of cooking vegetables and meat used by the housewife in order to allow for a proper assessment of the vitamin intake.

Information on the income of the family and the amount which is spent on food, which will allow an analysis of the sample chosen by food expenditure groups.

Results of such inquiries would show for the group investigated:-

1. The nutrient intake for a week.

2. The kinds and quantities of foods from which the nutrients were obtained.

3. Menus for a week.

This knowledge of the actual diet will not only provide the basis for planning and carrying out concrete measures, but would also permit a comparison of theoretical standards of nutrition with actual diets.

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B. Sociological factors

One of the most important sociological factors, the relation between economic status and expenditure on food, has already been mentioned and should be investigated in connection with any dietary survey.

Other factors influencing diet are habit and the emotional and social values attached to certain foods; also beliefs about nutrient values and lack of knowledge of the nutrient content of certain foods.

All these factors can influence the different stages of the feeding process, including:-

The choice of raw material.

The acceptance of newly introduced foods such as National Wheatmeal Bread, orange juice and cod-liver oil for the under fives.

The methods followed in the preparing and cooking processes.

The composition of the menu.

The attitude towards canteen, British Restaurant, school meals, school milk, etc.

In the foregoing pages, results of investigations have been reported which have dealt with these problems, but there are many more foods of which the sociological background should be investigated. It is known, for example, that meat is considered by a great number of workers as the most essential food, but very little is known of why it should be so considered.

There are other investigations which have been carried out once but which will have to be repeated over a space of time before any conclusion can be drawn from them, e.g., attitude towards canteens and British Restaurants. In this connection the investigation mentioned about the wife’s attitude towards her husband’s eating in a canteen might prove useful.

Other factors influencing diet and of which no knowledge exists are:-

The number of housewives who have no adequate cooking facilities and conditions and the necessary cooking utensils.

The number of housewives who have enough knowledge of cooking to provide a weekly menu of well cooked dishes.

The percentage of canteens and British Restaurants which provide nutritious meals. In this last type of investigation it would be necessary to co-operate with biochemists.

C. Food Education

Insufficient material exists to make it possible to decide which are the best methods of food education. A suggestion has been made for a comparative study of the effect of:-

B.B.C. publicity.

Newspaper publicity.

Exhibitions and lectures.

Food education in schools, etc.

A certain amount of material in this connection has already been collected by the Wartime Social Survey, but it will need expansion before sound conclusions can be reached.

The problems enumerated by this paper as needing investigation do not present, by any means, a complete list of all the questions into which research should be made. All that has been attempted here is to suggest on what lines a long term research plan on food habits should be drawn up.

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