Defending the East End
A time of shortage
At that time food supplies began to be affected by the Battle of the Atlantic and the disruption caused to merchant shipping by U-boats.
Without rationing, the price of food would have gone up. Only the wealthy would have been able to afford to eat properly.
This was done alongside a nationwide propaganda campaign that encouraged housewives to make the best of what little food they could get.
Shoppers had to register with one particular trader who would collect coupons from their ration book in return for certain products.
Shopping often involved long periods of queuing. A typical food ration book is shown here next to a clothing book. Clothes were also rationed because the armed forces had prority use of cloth.
One Deptford housewife recalled:
The ration books themselves took some of the stress out of queuing since everyone knew that they would receive their fair share, however long the wait.
What was rationed?
There were several main forms of food rationing:
The distribution of a number of important foods like milk, dried milk, eggs, dried eggs and oranges were controlled. This made sure that babies, expectant mothers and the sick received priority allowances.
Dig for Victory
The campaign encouraged people to use every spare piece of land, including parks and gardens, to grow vegetables. In Bermondsey over 75% of open space was turned over to vegetable production.
This photograph shows the allotments that were dug in Greenwich Park during the war.
Although people grumbled about rationing, it brought improvements for many Londoners, especially the East End poor.
Many people were better fed during the war than in the 1930s. They ate less fat and more vegetables.
Standards of health improved and, thanks to government campaigns, people became aware of what was needed to maintain a balanced diet and keep 'fighting fit'.
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