Posts Tagged ‘wartime nutrition’

Elsie Widdowson and WW2 rationing

August 18, 2016

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World War Zoo Gardens sign, Newquay Zoo, Cornwall, UK

It’s August. The schools are on 2016 holiday break and Newquay Zoo is lovely and busy with families. http://www.newquayzoo.org.uk/

I am also lovely and busy, preparing, repairing and refreshing schools and college workshop materials for September.

For the new City and Guilds 2016 syllabus  on animal managment delivered at  Newquay Zoo and Cornwall College Newquay,  I have been preparing new sessions for my new 16-19 year old students on animal feeding and nutrition.

https://www.cornwall.ac.uk/campus/cornwall-college-newquay

http://www.newquayzoo.org.uk/education-clubs/cornwall-college

One of the challenging new elements is a bit of biochemistry (and it’s a long time since I did my O levels!)

In the course of finding simple enough ways for me to understand and explain the new nutrition bits such as the  chemical structure of amino acids, protein bonds and suchlike,  I came across this great BBC clip on Elsie Widdowson from CBBC’s Absolute Genius team Dick and Dom:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/clips/zf9rkqt

Dr. Elsie  Who?

I feel I should know the name, as I have been looking at wartime gardening and rationing since 2009 as part of the World War Zoo gardens project workshops for schools.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/world-war-zoo-gardens-workshops-for-schools-at-newquay-zoo/

 

Elsie_Widdowson

Reading the story brought back very vague memories of this story being noted in passing in histories of food in wartime, rationing and gardening.

So who was Elsie Widdowson?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elsie_Widdowson

A trip to the kitchens at King’s College Hospital, London, brought her into contact with Professor Robert McCance, who was carrying out research into the best diets for people with diabetes. The two bonded and started on a research partnership that was to span 60 years.

They studied the effect poor nutrition has in adulthood and their book The Chemical Composition of Foods, published in 1940, became the “bible” on which modern nutritional thinking is founded.

Soon after the war started, she and Prof McCance lived for weeks in the Lake District eating the diet which they thought the British should consume during World War II to maintain basic health.They also cycled round Cambridge to study the importance of energy expenditure on diet. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6228307.stm)

There’s a new volume for the World War Zoo gardening bookshelf – The Chemical Composition of Foods, published in 1940 – and the 7th edition (2014 version) is still in print on Amazon from the Food Standards agency today.

World War Zoo Children evacuation suitcase & garden items Oct 09 018

Delabole Co-op and Camelford stores in Cornwall for meat, registered with Haddy’s for other rationed items, (is Haddy’s still going?) this well used (light brown adult RB1) Ration Book from Cornwall is part of our wartime life collection (copyright: World war Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo).

Widdowson and McCance headed the first mandated addition of vitamins and mineral to food. Their work began in the early 1940s, when calcium was added to bread.  They were also responsible for formulating the wartime rationing of Britain during World War II. (Elsie Widdowson’s Wikipedia entry)

Elsie Widdowson, wartime rationing star and Mother of the modern loaf as this BBC report named her – that’s one to chew on when you’re eating your lunchtime sarnies!

Elsie Widdowson and her scientific partner, Robert McCance, oversaw the first compulsory addition of a substance to food in the early 1940s, when calcium was introduced to bread. They were also responsible for formulating war-time rationing – some experts say that under their diet of mainly bread, vegetables and potatoes, that was when Britain was at its healthiest.(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6228307.stm)

A biography  of sorts exists – McCance and Widdowson: A Scientific Partnership of 60 Years, 1933-93  A Commemorative Volume about Robert McCance CBE, FRS and Elsie May Widdowson CBE, FRS   published / edited by  Margaret Ashwell in 1993.

Interesting medical history blog entry by Laura Dawes about early  wartime food security concerns in Britain with a brilliant wartime photograph of McCance and Widdowson:

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