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Restaurant based on World War canteens tackles malnourishment

A pop-up restaurant based on the subsidised canteens that kept the public nourished during both World Wars was recreated for pensioners in Liverpool

Diners were served food typical of both eras, between 1914-18 and 1939-45, at the temporary kitchen based on the historic 'social eating' model.

The scheme – which was aimed at older people - was run by Dr Bryce Evans, an Associate Professor in History at Liverpool Hope University, who wanted to help identify people at risk of being malnourished or underweight.

Music from both wars was played during lunch and there was a space for dancing.

Dr Evans, who gave a brief talk on food during the wars beforehand, was interviewed about the event live on Tony Snell's BBC Radio Merseyside breakfast show.

“Social eating was a fixture of British society 100 years ago," said Dr Evans.

“This event will hopefully have proved it can be helpful again – we tried to do it in a way that was creative and yet faithful to the history.

“We also used the event to check if anyone who came was under-weight or needs support to stay properly nourished.

“This just involved a really simple armband tests, when a paper armband on the person's wrist or arm is moved up and down. If it could move up and down too easily there may have been an issue with the person being underweight.”

National Kitchens ran in the UK between 1917 and 1919, offering simple meals at subsidised prices.

A bowl of soup, a joint of meat and a portion of side vegetables cost 6d - just over £1 in today’s money, while puddings, scones and cakes could be bought for as little as 1d (about 18p).

The model returned in World War II, when more than 2000 British Restaurants were opened between 1943-1947.

"When you think of the World Wars it's easy to think of the jingoism around them," added Dr Evans. "But we wanted to celebrate an aspect of life from the wars that was democratising instead."

The restaurant was run at Liverpool Age Concern, on Townsend Lane, Clubmoor, on Wednesday, February 27 and a second session will take place on Wednesday, May 1.

Dr Evans ran similar events last year, which were featured on BBC Breakfast, at Constellations in the Baltic district.

Published on 27/02/2019