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Canteen Dinners

inside the canteen
Children evacuated from St Pancras Primary School seen having
school meals in the Portland Road canteen.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 9th January, 1942, transcribed by Jim Hollis

New Restaurant for Children
Scholars Dine with Teachers at Rushden Canteen — Fourpenny Dinners
Rushden’s first school canteen opened on Tuesday with a fourpenny dinner party which left 170 young diners well and truly “stalled.” Helpings based on catering experience in another part of the county proved more than adequate, and experts who checked-up learned that Rushden children – including the evacuees - are only normally hungry.

The first sitting
Well-fed "customers" at the first sitting
Until recently Rushden opposed the introduction of communal feeding, but the increased demand on married women for industrial service has altered the position. The canteen is established in ex-warehouse premises in Portland-road, and the County Education Committee has had it equipped on up-to-date lines for the ultimate provision of 400 dinners daily. It serves all the schools, and the children who use it are escorted by teachers.

There were two sittings on Tuesday, and when the first had assembled at the bright-looking tables beneath the glass roof an evacuee headmaster, Mr. W. E. Taylor, of Walthamstow, took the children in hand.

“We’ve got a lovely place here, haven’t we? said Mr. Taylor. “Yes, Sir!” came in chorus. Grace was said, and then, from the wide kitchen hatches, steaming meals were whisked to the tables in no time.

Teachers ate with the scholars. Ladies of the W.V.S. kept the tables supplied. It was soon discovered that the bigger boys were tucking-in at a smart pace, though the small children seemed rather overwhelmed. All such things were noted for future guidance.

There were 120 diners in the first round – and quite a bunch of visitors, among them Coun. W. E. Capon (chairman of the School Managers), Coun. E. A. Sugars (also a manager), Coun. Mrs. O. A. H. Muxlow (centre organiser of the W.V.S.) and the teachers. About half the children were evacuees.

Tables were decorated with flowers and evergreens; walls with bright picture posters, one of them expounding the science of feeding. The table-ware was good.

On this occasion Miss Byatt, County Organiser of Domestic Subjects, and her assistant, Miss Lindsay, were overlooking operations. The permanent head cook and caterer, however, is youthful Miss Margaret Janes. She is assisted by two cooks and two kitchen maids, and the W.V.S. has organised a rota which supplied three voluntary helpers daily.

Each meal, it was learned, has to contain a minimum of 1,000 calories. A well-balanced diet is the aim, and the menus vary from day to day. Tuesday’s list was shin of beef, mixed vegetables (carrots, swedes, celery and onions), lentils thickened with oatmeal, steamed potatoes and savoys, wheatmeal bread, baked chocolate pudding and custard.

Wednesday’s menu included boiled mutton, pearl barley, rice pudding and baked apples. For Thursday there were minced beef and ginger pudding; for Friday, fish with parsley sauce, semolina or rice pudding, and jam sauce.

Great attention is given to details of food value. For example, to conserve vitamins the potatoes are cooked in their jackets.

The big kitchen looks capable of anything. It has a row of gas cookers, a general utility range, a steam oven (for potatoes or pudding), boilers for green vegetables, soups, etc., and heated assembly tables.

In the pantry is a month’s supply of storable foodstuffs, and one long shelf is filled with jam made by the school-children of Wollaston.

But the most remarkable thing of all is that dinner in this liberal restaurant must not cost more than the fourpence which is charged.

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