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Meeting of Stanley War Savings (and Food Economy) Committee

Councillors discussed the best method of encouraging food savings

From: 21-May-1917

Civil Parish: Stanley

Report from the Auckland Chronicle, 24 May 1917:

Food Economy at Stanley

Sunday open-air meeting to be held

Three pounds of flour – four of bread

An important meeting of the Stanley War Savings (and Food Economy) Committee was held at the Council House on Monday evening, when it was decided to inaugurate a vigorous campaign with regard to food economy.

Among other things, it was resolved to start a series of cookery demonstrations in various centres, to hold a mass outdoor meeting, and to open an information bureau at the Council Offices, besides distributing circulars, displaying posters, etc.

Dr J Charles (chairman of the committee) presided, supported by Mr M G Armstrong JP, Couns. P Duffy JP, and D Dodd (chairman and vice-chairman of Stanley Urban District Council), W McClenning, S E D Wilson and T Welsh CC, the Rev. F S Myers (vicar of South Moor), the Misses Oliver, Hanlon, and Young, Messrs A Bolam (hon secretary), J B Hardy, R J Hold, Alton E Johnson, E Fidell, E Dale, and P Vincent.

The chairman said that the business of the meeting was to consider what steps should be taken to bring before the public the necessity for strict economy in foodstuffs.

It was decided, as a preliminary, to open an information bureau at the Council Offices.

The idea of a communal kitchen was not, however, regarded favourably by the meeting: Coun. McClenning voicing what was probably the general opinion when he said that that was really unnecessary in a place where coal was so cheap.


Considerable discussion ensued as to the subject of cookery demonstrations, more particularly with regard to the new food substitutes now on the market.

Mr Bolam observed that Oxhill and South Moor were provided for at the schools, but Stanley seemed to be left out in the cold.

Mr Hardy gave interesting details of what had been done at Tanfield – where scores of children are daily fed – in the way of inviting parents to attend to see what was done.

Mr Armstrong pertinently asked whether is was impracticable to get a larger number of people there, or at any other properly equipped kitchen.

Mr Hardy said that more than 50 would over-crowd their kitchen.

Mr Wilson asked if they could not extend the occasions on which such opportunities were afforded to parents.

Mr Myers questioned whether it would not be practical to do something in a public hall on a larger scale, putting in gas-ovens and so on. He suggested the Co-operative Hall, and thought that possibly they could have the aid of some of the teachers.

Mr Bolam said the teachers were enthusiastic, and the only obstacle was as to the building.

Mr Myers insisted that what was needed was something practical for, say, a gathering of 500 persons. The average woman was sceptical as to cookery-books, in his opinion.

The Chairman said the women were mostly able enough to cook; the point just now was teaching them what to cook.

No privileges for the rich

Mr McClenning observed that as soon as one substitute had been brought forward, the price had gone up between 100 per cent and 500 per cent, including peas, beans, and other things. He was out against that sort of thing. He was away at an important mining conference in London some days since; and the feeling was that if the Government could tell them what quantities of food there really were in the country they would be prepared to ration themselves on general lines, if necessary, but only if necessary. He had no patience with the idea that the better classes should be allowed to buy the better kinds of food, and that only the working people should be rationed; nor was he satisfied that there was an absolute shortage.

The Chairman emphatically disagreed on the latter score, saying that they must face a situation of serious shortage. The Government desired the nation to ration itself on voluntary lines; if that failed, compulsion must come in – and they knew it had been a failure in Germany. As for asking the Government to give them full particulars, as Mr McClenning had suggested, it was not advisable that they should tell too much. But it was absolutely necessary to economise now – on voluntary lines.

Mr Myers said that Mr McClenning had done good service by bringing the matter up. The government had, however, told them plainly that there was a very serious shortage. While there might be no need for panic, still the danger did exist. The evil of compulsory rationing was that they would have to treat all alike, and hard workers ate a lot more bread than men like himself, for instance; so compulsory rationing must inevitably hit the workingman the hardest. No Food Controller could pick out and cater for different appetites and tastes.

Mr Wilson said that while the position as regarded the submarine menace was better just now, there was no guarantee that it would continue. Could Mr McClenning say what authority he had for the statement that there were considerable quantities of food in the country?

Mr McClenning said it was an undoubted fact that food was being held-up. That was stated at the conference in Westminster Hall; and his own opinion was that it was held up to make money. They had wanted to know if there was really a shortage of food, and if they were assured that was so, they would advise rationing.

Mr Holt thought such a question would be unanswerable as the supplies varied so. They were being asked to economise to stem the tide.

“Unspeakably abominable”

Mr Myers said he believed they ought to ask the Government to fix prices. Such profiteering was unspeakably abominable. As soon as substitutes were found the price was rushed up by the profiteers. The Government should take a strong hand on the subject.

Mr Wilson opined it was all due to gambling in food prices. The purchaser, of course, had to pay!

Mr McClenning said that in Lancashire there were thousands of tons of potatoes which the farmers would not sell. They kept them till not a stone was worth using. There were houses, too, where the bedrooms were said to be packed with sugar, tea and so on.

Mr Armstrong at this stage suggested that the real business of that meeting was to try and assist the Government to carry out voluntary rationing and persuade the people to do so. They should give them information as to the variety of dishes available for substitutes. Cookery centres would be a great advantage to the community. The food supply fluctuated, so they were bound to accept the Government’s advice, and their entire business was to assist the public in the matter of voluntary rationing.

Mr Myers moved that the secretary be empowered to make arrangements for cookery demonstrations in as many centres as possible.

Mr Armstrong asked about the cost.

The Chairman stated that they were allowed certain expenses, at a War Savings Committee, at the rate of £1 per 1,000 population.

Mr Bolam asked: We are allowed about £27.

Mr Armstrong thereupon said that he would second Mr Myers’ motion if he included therein all the schoolmasters present, and the Chairman, as a sub-committee. They should, he though, have one big meeting to explain the whole scheme, and get at least one big man to speak.

Mr Bolam pointed out that “Food Savings Day” was on 24 May, but they would scarcely have time to arrange anything special for it.

Mr Holt said he was inviting the parents to come to his school on Empire Day, and asking the Vicar of South Moor to give a 15 minutes’ speech. Councillor Welsh was helping in the matter. This would be an open-air meeting and patriotic celebration. They had circulated the parents as to weighing food, etc.

Mr Welsh expressed his approval and appreciation of the attitude taken by Mr Holt in the matter.

Big meeting wanted

Mr Armstrong said he still thought they wanted a big meeting to give the thing a good send-off, with a rousing band and a first-class speaker, in one of the fields near Stanley.

Mr Myers said that he agreed with Mr Armstrong as to the advisability of holding one big meeting. Possibly they could have short addresses in the picture halls, too – if the people were sufficiently tolerant!

The Chairman: They will be if Mr Myers is the speaker.

Mr Armstrong thought they should have several platforms.

Mr Myers: And turn out the Sunday-school.

It was resolved to hold the meeting on a Sunday afternoon in the near future, probably Sunday week, and the names of several prominent personages were suggested to be invited to speak on that occasion.

The Chairman said they were asked to introduce the pledges.

Mr Myers: Isn’t that kind of thing done to death?

Mr Vincent questioned whether the local bakers were observing the regulations as to the weighing of bread and its sale only after a certain interval from baking.

Mr Myers asked who had authority in the way of prosecutions for the waste of food, etc. If it was the local Council they should “get into their stride.”

Mr Bolam mentioned that he had heard of people getting in their usual supplies of flour – and buying their bread.

Mr Myers said that no lesson could be salutary unless there were prosecutions.

Mr Bolam said he had asked Mr Robt Whitfield (general manager, West Stanley Co-Operative Society, Ltd.), Mr E Fidell (Messrs Brough and Sons), and Mr E Dale (Messrs Walter Wilson) to attend, as it was thought they might tell them if there was less buying. Mr Whitfield was unable to attend, as also was the Rev Father Dix.

Education wanted

Mr Fidell said that they were limiting the quantities of certain commodities containing sugar; but he was not sure that some people would be educated up to the right point yet. They were serving 3,000 people weekly, and he would gladly distribute bills. Some help should be given folk as to the foods to use. It was most difficult to get people to buy as they should without compulsion.

Mr Dale observed that if the Store customers were limited as to flour they simply went elsewhere. Very few cut down their requirements if they had got the money. It caused a lot of bad feeling to refuse flour, though they had got to refuse sugar except to regular customers.

The Chairman said it was a matter for folk themselves. The shopkeepers were obviously helpless.

Mr Fidell told how, when the amending regulation as to sugar came in, one little girl asked for one pound, and when offered half a pound indignantly said: “Why I’ve got seven pounds in my bag.” (Laughter.)

Mr Myers thought they must adopt educational methods. Four pounds of bread did not, as a term, convey much to some people; they should talk of stones of flour, rather. When he said that three pounds of flour made four pounds of bread he was flatly contradicted, though the Food Controller said so, and he was told that was underestimated rather than the reverse. People had in many cases been astonished to find they ate so much over the allowance.

Mr Hardy said that they had got home statistics per the children: and he did not think they could get the people down to the official ration figures. In nearly all cases the consumption of meat was below the average, and bread very much above it. Just by way of illustration he put out a day’s supply of bread, and one boy promptly said he ate as much as that for breakfast. (Laughter.)

Mr Holt remarked that he had had an almost similar experience.

Porridge and rice

The Chairman said people could have porridge for breakfast.

Mr Fidell considered that much more rice should be eaten, for it had not gone up as much as other things by any means. Marrowfat peas had multiplied in price six times, for instance.

Mr Armstrong said he had tried rice as a vegetable, but the size and quality seemed to have deteriorated.

Mr Fidell said he had got their traveller to push rice. Maize was now used in different forms, too.

Unfortunately, so many bought things in packets, and paid an enormous price for them. He meant peas and oats, which could be purchased loose at much less money.

The opinion was expressed that Mr Fidell might well summarise his hints for public delivery at an early opportunity.

It was resolved that a house-to-house canvass on the subject of food economy was unnecessary.

As to the proposed pledge campaign, it was decided to place pledges at the official bureau to be opened in the Council-house.

Mr Fidell stuck a final warning note by saying that there was a lot too much starch about. No more could be had anyhow.

Contributed by Durham at War Volunteer

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