The Cautious Revolution: Britain Today and Tomorrow

By Ernest Watkins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
Food and Rationing
I suppose the commonest questions over food are:
1. Is Britain worse fed than before the war?
2. Is rationing necessary?
3. How is it operated?
4. Is state control over food in Britain there to stay?
5. Does the system work well or not?
6. How does the ordinary housewife manage?
And I think it easiest to answer them as specific questions.
1. Britain is better fed than before the war, in the sense that more food is eaten and most families have more to eat. What really governs the consumption of food is not the amount that a man can eat, but the amount that he can afford to eat.

In 1931, there were 2,707,000 unemployed in Britain, nearly a quarter of the working population, almost all living on a weekly unemployment benefit. In consequence, their food consumption was arbitrarily limited by their lack of money. For the whole period from 1945 to 1950 well over a million more people were at work than in 1939 and, in consequence, a million people were buying more food. The food is still there for them to buy.

A very great proportion of the small income is spent on food--in fact, the smaller the income the greater the proportion spent on food, for food is always priority number one. When a man's weekly wage rises from bare subsistence level to no more than five pounds, most of the increase is spent on food.

Perhaps the fairest generalization to make is this: More people in Britain are eating food in greater quantities than they did before the war. For the small income family, the variety in diet is about the

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