Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Free School Meals - Edward Hartley (Bradford) 1908


How to Feed the Children

By Alderman E. R. Hartley. (Bradford)


" Whether there be one God, 
or three; no God or ten thousand,
little Children should be fed,
and their bodies kept clean." 
The Citizen Series. 
This Pamphlet will be followed by others, dealing with various phases of SOCIALISM 
from the Practical Side. 


NO measure of recent years does more credit to the work of the 
Socialists of Britain than the one giving power to feed the 
children. Not that the Act goes far enough or is at all 
adequate, but because it is the outcome of a demand made without 
ceasing for over a quarter of a century. 

The Act should be compulsory and not adoptive. It should 
give local autonomy by allowing the Local Authority to decide the 
amount of the rate according to the varying needs of the district 
concerned. The ratepayers themselves to decide the amount. 

Our present business is to see that the new powers are used to 
the utmost ; we have got the wedge in, it must be driven home. 

When Socialists first argued for the feeding of the children who 
were compelled to attend the Nation's schools on the ground that if 
they were obliged to go to school, we should at least be sure that 
they were physically fit to receive and benefit by what they were 
taught. We were told that the children were already fed. 

The Clarion Cinderella Clubs proved that large numbers of the children 
were not fed, or at least only partially or badly fed. The work 
grew, and children's holiday funds, &c, were quite popular. 


The South African War, however, brought matters to a head ; 
when it was found that more than one-half of the young men offering 
themselves for service, in the time of the Nation's need, were not 
good enough to be shot at, or to wear the Nation's uniform, people 
began to think. The youths bred in our slums and reared in our 
factories and workshops, were so narrow across the chest and their 
general development too small, to be fair targets for the Dutchmen's 
guns, they might miss them ; and it was this serious problem that 
caused the first real consideration of the matter. A little enquiry 
soon showed the main reason to be under and improper feeding. 



When the question of Public Feeding came to the front, we 
were at once met with the statement that " to feed w 7 ould take oft 
Parental Responsibility." Results had proved this to be nonsense 
for, if it was the parents fault, they had evidently thrown off the responsibility long ago. Any way the children were not fed. 


So far the work has been a great success, and while we 
Socialists can claim to be the initiators, we have not been alone in 
our efforts to make the matter a success. Men and women of all 
parties are soon in deadly earnest when it is something to help the 
children. Help them in the best of all ways, by helping them to be 
better able to help themselves at a later day. 


Mr. Sleary's pregnant advice to Mr. Gradgrind always seems to 
me specially adapted to our children — 

" Make the best of us, and not the worst." 

To leave children unfed and unfit to receive the fullest 
benefit from our Educational system, seems very like making the 
worst of them. All History and experience are with us. '' Healthy 
body, healthy mind," is proverbial, and the ladies and gentlemen of 
high birth and culture, who like the others are only descendants of 
the cave dwellers, owe more of their present fine habits and 
manners than thev are aware of, to the fact that for many 
generations they have be^iL temoved from the first primal struggle 
to get food. What haj served in their case will hold good for the 
race. When men and women generally have not to spend their 
main energies in getting the bread that perisheth, they will have 
both time and inclination for higher things. In a wolfish struggle 
for food, there is no time or chance for the greater things which 
make for life. 


The present serious decrease in the birth-rate, makes it all the 
more necessary that we should make the best of tho^e children we 
have. If we are merely struggling for Trade, I have far less fear 
of the German Navy than the growth of the German Schools. No 
possible Navy we can provide will enable us to keep our place 
amongst the nations of the world, if the masses of our people are 
physically and mentally inferior. 

With a Nation of men and women "full summed in all their 
powers," having intellectual pow r er to understand and physical 
power to perform, no outside force can do us harm. But, with a 
Nation strongly recruited from the British Barbarian, and with, as 
our doctor told us, 13 per cent, of the children underfed, and 
with little (if any) chance of a right development, there is always the 
greatest danger in the future. 

Children to-day i Nation to-morrow ! ! Let us never forget 
that in a few short years the world's work will have to be carried 
on by those who to-day are in our schools and playgrounds. 


What we make those children to-day, that the Nation will be 

Amongst the most intelligent people of to-day, the greatest 
scorn is felt for the father who neglects to give his children the 
fullest opportunity of education ; whilst scorn would change to 
anger and contempt, if it were known he also refused to give them 
proper quantities of food. 

The Nation can no more afford to neglect the children as a 
whole, than the parents. 

The tremendous economy to be made in feeding large numbers 
like these is already proved, and will lead — no one knows where. 
The Staff, at the Cookery Centre at Green Lane, prepare food for 
nearly 2000 persons. The same Staff do all the washing-up. 

Relief for Hard-Worked Mothers. 

Now ye tired mothers ! (a great part of whose lives are now 
spent in preparing meals and clearing them away) ! When Robert 
Blatchford showed in Merrie England the great saving of time and 
money, to say nothing of the saving of the lives and opportunities of 
our women by collective cooking, there were many scoffers. 

Yet, here we have a staff of six, three men and three women, 
preparing and cooking for nearly 2000, and in addition doing all 
the washing up for the same number. What a chance of relief for 
our tired mothers ! 

There are great possibilities in the future for you, where more 
leisure shall be your lot, under a wiser dispensation. 

The children will be as well, and in many cases better fed. 

The general economy will be great, and many an overburdened 
mother will have cause to bless the clay when an answer was given 
to what had often seemed a fruitless prayer for children — 

" Give us this day, our daily bread !" 

H. BEAUMONT, Printer, 18a, Laisterdyke (T.U. 48 Hours) 
Full text at
 Edward Robertshaw Hartley (1855–1918)