A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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The Wartime Social Survey is a Government Organisation whose function it is to collect at the request of the Administration information about the habits and attitudes of the people of Great Britain. Such information may be needed either to plan certain policies or to check the success or failure of administrative measures.

Amongst the Ministries which make use of the services of the Wartime Social Survey are the Ministries of Food and Health.

Between February 1942 and October 1943, forty investigations (Appendix I) into food habits and attitudes towards war time measures connected with food were carried out. All these investigations were designed for a limited practical purpose, but quite a number of results are of general interest, and they are presented in the following pages. They are grouped around seven questions:-

  • Attitudes to rationing.

  • Changes in food habits brought about by compulsion and publicity.

  • Knowledge of food values and the means by which it is acquired.

  • Feeding outside the home.

  • Extent to which different foods are used.

  • Group differences in food habits.

  • Dietary surveys.

All results referred to in this paper are based on interviews with 2000 - 5000 informants selected by the stratified sampling method and are representative of specified groups. All information was gathered in personal interviews carried out by trained full-time investigators. The informants chosen by the particular sample method used in each case were approached either in their houses or their places of work and were strangers to the investigator. The investigator used a schedule which set out the questions on which information was needed. Examples of the schedules used are given in Appendix II.

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