M. E. (Mildred Emily) Bulkley.

The Feeding of School Children online

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The Ratan Tata Foundation
(University Of London)




With An Introductory Note By R. H. Tawney
Director of the Ratan Tata Foundation

G. Bell And Sons, Ltd.

The Ratan Tata Foundation

_Honorary Director_: PROFESSOR L. T. Hobhouse, M.A., D.LIT. _Honorary
Secretary_: PROFESSOR E. J. Urwick, M.A. _Director_: MR. R. H. Tawney,
B.A. _Secretary_: MISS M. E. Bulkley, B.SC.

The Ratan Tata Foundation has been instituted in order to promote the
study and further the knowledge of methods of preventing and relieving
poverty and destitution. For the furtherance of this purpose the
Foundation conducts inquiries into wages and the cost of living, methods
of preventing and diminishing unemployment, measures affecting the
health and well-being of workers, public and private agencies for the
relief of destitution, and kindred matters. The results of its principal
researches will be published in pamphlet or book form; it will also
issue occasional notes on questions of the day under the heading of
"Memoranda on Problems of Poverty." In addition to these methods of
publishing information, the Officers of the Foundation will, as far as
is in their power, send replies to individual inquiries relating to
questions of poverty and destitution, their causes, prevention and
relief, whether at home or abroad. Such inquiries should be addressed to
the Secretary of the Ratan Tata Foundation, School of Economics, Clare
Market, Kingsway, W.C. The Officers are also prepared to supervise the
work of students wishing to engage in research in connection with
problems of poverty. Courses of Lectures will also be given from time to
time, which will be open to the Public.

Already Published.

"_Some Notes on the Incidence of Taxation on the Working-class Family._"

BY F. W. Kolthammer, M.A. 6d.

"_The Health and Physique of School Children._"

BY Arthur Greenwood, B.Sc. 1s.

"_Poverty as an Industrial Problem_": _an Inaugural Lecture_.

BY R. H. Tawney, B.A. 6d.

"_Studies in the Minimum Wage._"

No. 1. The Establishment of Minimum Rates in the Chain-making Industry
under the Trade Boards Act of 1909.

BY R. H. Tawney, B.A. 1s. 6d. net.

"_The Feeding of School Children._"

BY MISS M. E. Bulkley, B.A., B.Sc. 3s. 6d. net.

To Appear Shortly

"_Studies in the Minimum Wage._"

No. 2. The Establishment of Minimum Rates in the Tailoring Trade.



In the collection of the material on which the following pages are based
I have received assistance from so many persons that it is impossible to
thank them all individually. I gratefully acknowledge the unfailing
courtesy of officials of Local Education Authorities, School Medical
Officers, secretaries of Care Committees and many others, who have
always been most ready to supply me with information as to the working
of the Provision of Meals Act, and to show me the Feeding Centres. My
thanks are due especially to the students of the Social Science
Department of the School of Economics, who have assisted in collecting
and arranging the material, especially to Miss Ruth Giles, Miss A. L.
Hargrove, and Miss P. M. Bisgood, the first chapter being very largely
the work of Miss Giles; Mrs. Leslie Mackenzie, Mr. I. H. Cunningham,
Miss Cecil Young and Mrs. F. H. Spencer have also kindly collected local
information. I am greatly indebted to Mr. R. H. Tawney for much valuable
advice and co-operation, and to Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb and Dr. Kerr
for reading through the proofs. I should add that the enquiry was made
during the course of the year 1913 and the account of the provision made
refers to that date.

M. E. Bulkley.


Preface vii

Introduction BY R. H. TAWNEY xi

Chapter I. The History of the Movement for the Provision of
School Meals 1

Provision by Voluntary Agencies - The Organisation of the
Voluntary Agencies - The demand for State
provision - Provision by the Guardians - The Education
(Provision of Meals) Act.

Chapter II. The Administration of the Education (Provision
of Meals) Act 50

The adoption of the Act - Canteen Committees, their
constitution and functions - The selection of the
children - The preparation and service of the meals - The
provision of meals during the holidays - The provision for
paying children and recovery of the cost - Overlapping
between the Poor Law and the Education Authorities - The
provision of meals at Day Industrial Schools and at Special
Schools - The underfed child in rural schools - Conclusions.

Chapter III. The Provision of Meals in London 131

The organisation of Voluntary Agencies - The assumption of
responsibility by the County Council - The extent of the
provision - The Care Committee - The provision for paying
children - The service of the meals - Overlapping with the
Poor Law Authority - Appendix (Examples of feeding centres).

Chapter IV. The Extent and Causes of Malnutrition 170

Chapter V. The Effect of School Meals on the Children 184

Chapter VI. The Effect on the Parents 202

Chapter VII. Conclusions 219

Appendix I. - Examples of Menus 231

Appendix II. - The Provision of Meals in Scotland 237

Appendix III. - The Provision of Meals Abroad 249


The Provision of Meals for School Children, which is the subject of the
following pages, is still undergoing that process of tentative
transformation from a private charity to a public service by which we
are accustomed to disguise the assumption of new responsibilities by the
State. Begun in the 'sixties of the nineteenth century as a form of
philanthropic effort, and denounced from time to time as socialistic and
subversive of family life, it first attracted serious public attention
when the South African war made the physical defects caused by
starvation, which had been regarded with tolerance in citizens, appear
intolerable in soldiers, and was canvassed at some length in the
well-known reports of the Royal Commission on Physical Training in
Scotland and of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Physical
Deterioration. The first disposition of the authorities was, as usual,
to recur to that maid-of-all-work, the Poor Law, and in April, 1905, the
Relief (School Children) Order empowered the Guardians to grant relief
to the child of an able-bodied man without requiring him to enter the
workhouse or to perform the outdoor labour test, provided that they took
steps to recover the cost. The Guardians, however, perhaps happily, had
little sympathy for this deviation from the principle of deterrence,
with the result that the new Order was in most places either not applied
or applied with insignificant results. The consequence was that the
attempt to make the provision of meals for school children part of the
Poor Law was abandoned. In 1906 the Education (Provision of Meals) Act
was passed empowering Local Education Authorities to provide food,
either in co-operation with voluntary agencies or out of public funds,
up to the limit of a half-penny rate. In the year 1911-12, out of 322
authorities, 131 were returned as making some provision for the feeding
of school children.

The object of Miss Bulkley's monograph is to describe what that
provision is, how adequate or inadequate, how systematic or haphazard,
and to examine its effect on the welfare both of the children concerned,
and of the general community. The present work is, therefore,
complementary to Mr. Greenwood's _Health and Physique of School
Children_, which was recently published by the Ratan Tata Foundation,
and which gave an exhaustive description of the conditions of school
children in respect of health as revealed by the reports of School
Medical Officers. That the subject with which Miss Bulkley deals is one
of the first importance, few, whatever views may be held as to the Act
of 1906, will be found to deny. Almost all the medical authorities who
have made a study of the health and physique of school children are
unanimous that a capital cause of ill-health among them is lack of the
right kind of food. "Defective nutrition," states Sir George Newman,
"stands in the forefront as the most important of all physical defects
from which school children suffer.... From a purely scientific point of
view, if there was one thing he was allowed to do for the six million
children if he wanted to rear an imperial race, it would be to feed
them.... The great, urgent, pressing need was nutrition. With that they
could get better brains and a better race." "Apart from infectious
diseases," said Dr. Collie before the Inter-Departmental Committee on
Physical Deterioration, "malnutrition is accountable for nine-tenths of
child sickness." "Food," Dr. Eichholz told the same body, "is at the
base of all the evils of child degeneracy." "The sufficient feeding of
children," declared Dr. Niven, the Medical Officer of Health for
Manchester, "is by far the most important thing to attend to." "To
educate underfed children," said Dr. Leslie Mackenzie, "is to promote
deterioration of physique by exhausting the nervous system. Education of
the underfed is a positive evil." What doctors understand by
malnutrition is what the plain man calls starvation; and while it is, of
course, due to other causes besides actual inability to procure
sufficient food, the experience of those authorities which have
undertaken the provision of meals in a thorough and systematic manner
suggests that these statements as to the prevalence of malnutrition or
starvation are by no means exaggerations. To say, as has recently been
said by a writer of repute in the _Economic Journal_, "already 40,000
children are fed weekly at the schools without appreciably improving the
situation," is a ridiculous misstatement of the facts. On the contrary,
there is every reason to believe that in those areas where suitable and
sufficient meals have been provided, there has been a marked improvement
in the health of the children receiving them. The tentative conclusions
on this point given for a single city by Mr. Greenwood (_Health and
Physique of School Children_, pp. 62-67), are substantiated by the
fuller evidence which Miss Bulkley sets out in Chapter V. of the present
work. "As far as the children are concerned, indeed, whether we consider
the improvement in physique, mental capacity or manners, there is no
doubt that the provision of school meals has proved of the greatest

But while there is little doubt that the authorities which have made
determined attempts to use to the full their powers under the Act of
1906 have been rewarded by an improvement in the health of the children
attending school, Miss Bulkley's enquiries show that the Act itself is
open to criticism, that many local authorities who ought to have
welcomed the new powers conferred by the Act have been deterred by a
mean and short-sighted parsimony from adopting it, and that in many
areas where it has been adopted its administration leaves much to be
desired. The limitation to a halfpenny rate of the amount which a local
authority may spend, has resulted in more than one authority stopping
meals in spite of the existence of urgent need for them. By
deciding - contrary, it would appear, to the intention of
Parliament - that local authorities cannot legally spend money on
providing meals except when the children are actually in school, the
Local Government Board has made impossible, except at the risk of a
surcharge or at the cost of private charity, the provision of meals
during holidays. To those who regard the whole policy of the Act of 1906
as a mistake, these limitations upon it will appear, of course, to be an
advantage. But the assumption on which the Act is based is that it is in
the public interest that provision should be made for children who would
otherwise be underfed, and, granted this premise, the wisdom of
intervening to protect ratepayers against their own too logical
deductions from it would appear to be as questionable as it is
unnecessary. The bad precedent of authorities such as Leicester, which
has refused to adopt the Act, and which leaves the feeding of school
children to be carried out by a voluntary organisation under whose
management the application for meals is in effect discouraged, does not,
unfortunately, stand alone. Of more than 200 authorities who have made
no use of their statutory powers, how many are justified in their
inaction by the absence of distress among the school children in their
area? How many have even taken steps to ascertain whether such distress
exists or not? If it is the case, as is stated by high medical
authorities, that "the education of the underfed is a positive evil,"
would not the natural corollary appear to be that, now that the
experimental stage has been passed, the Act should be made obligatory
and the provision of meals should become a normal part of the school

Apart from these larger questions of policy, it will be agreed that, if
local authorities are to feed children at all, it is desirable that they
should do so in the way calculated to produce the beneficial results
upon the health of school children which it is the object of the Act to
secure. That certain authorities have been strikingly successful in
providing good food under humanising conditions appears from the account
of the effects of school meals given by Miss Bulkley. But the methods
pursued in the selection of the children and in the arrangements made
for feeding them vary infinitely from place to place, and the standards
of efficiency with which many authorities are content appear to be
lamentably low. It is evident that in many places a large number of
children who need food are overlooked, either because the conditions are
such as to deter parents from applying for meals, or because no attempt
is made to use the medical service to discover the needs of children
whose parents have not applied, or for both reasons (pp. 59-75). It is
evident also that many authorities do not give sufficient attention to
the character of the meals provided (pp. 79-83), or to the conditions
under which they are served (pp. 83-101), with the result that "most
diets ... are probably wanting in value for the children," and that
little attempt is made to secure the "directly educational effect ... in
respect of manners and conduct," which was emphasised as a _desideratum_
by the Board of Education. London, in particular, where the necessity
for the provision of meals is conspicuous, has won a bad pre-eminence by
sinning against light. Reluctant, in the first place, to use its powers
at all - "the whole question," said the chairman of the Sub-Committee on
Underfed Children in 1908, "of deciding which children are underfed, and
of making special provision for such children, should really be one for
the Poor Law Authority" - the Education Committee of the London County
Council has taken little pains to ensure that the food provided should
always be suitable, or that the meals should be served under civilising
conditions. That these defects can be removed by care and forethought is
shown by the example set by such towns as Bradford, and now that eight
years have elapsed since the Education (Provision of Meals) Act was
passed, they should cease to receive the toleration which may reasonably
be extended to new experiments. Miss Bulkley's monograph will have
served its purpose if it makes it somewhat easier for the administrator,
whether on Education Authorities or Care Committees, in Public Offices
or in Parliament itself, to apply the varied experience of the last
eight years to a problem whose solution is an indispensable condition of
the progress of elementary education.

R. H. Tawney.

Heights and Weights of 366 Children from Secondary Schools and 2,111
from Elementary Schools in Liverpool.


Age Secondary Council A Council B Council C

ft. in. ft. in. ft. in. ft. in.

7 3 11·4 3 9·33 3 8·8 3 8

7-1/2 4 1·83 3 10·7 3 8·17 3 10

8 4 2·61 3 11·67 3 10 3 8·37

8-1/2 4 2·5 3 11·62 3 11·33 3 9·2

9 4 4·03 4 1·76 4 0·8 3 11

9-1/2 4 4·37 4 1·75 4 1·61 4 0

10 4 6·41 4 3·3 4 1·7 4 0·5

10-1/2 4 6·83 4 3·7 4 3·04 4 0·75

11 4 7·5 4 5·11 4 3·8 4 1·75

11-1/2 4 8·87 4 6·25 4 4·57 4 2·3

12 4 10 4 6·9 4 5·6 4 3·6

12-1/2 4 9·4 4 7·5 4 6·34 4 4·16

13 5 0·55 4 9·05 4 5·9 4 5·61

13-1/2 4 11·77 4 8·62 4 7·23 4 6·5

14 5 1·75 4 10·2 4 8·25 4 7·25


Age Council A Council B Council C
ft. in. ft. in. ft. in.
7 3 10·75 3 8·25 3 9·12
7-1/2 3 10·13 3 9·77 3 8·75
8 3 11·5 3 10·73 3 8·87
8-1/2 4 0·25 3 10·57 3 9·5
9 4 2·62 4 0·25 3 11·16
9-1/2 4 2·25 4 1·2 4 0
10 4 3·25 4 1·76 4 0·17
10-1/2 4 2·75 4 3·35 4 0·3
11 4 5 4 4·12 4 1·06
11-1/2 4 4·75 4 4·25 4 2·7
12 4 7·25 4 5·7 4 4·16
12-1/2 4 9 4 6·14 4 5·16
13 4 8·3 4 7·3 4 7·5
13-1/2 4 10·75 4 8·87 4 7
14 5 0·5 4 5·7 4 8·5


Age Secondary Council A Council B Council C

st. lb. st. lb. st. lb. st. lb.

7 3 7·3 3 2·1 3 1 3 1

7-1/2 4 0·7 3 6·77 3 0·11 3 4

4 0·7 3 4·44 3 3·64 3 1·87

8-1/2 3 10·5 3 5 3 5·2 3 3·3

4 3·5 3 11·33 3 8·85 3 6·38

9-1/2 4 5·4 3 9·35 3 11·16 3 9·5

4 10·03 3 13·1 3 11 -

10-1/2 4 12·76 4 0·43 4 0·6 3 12·37

11 5 0·27 4 5·45 4 3·05 3 13·5

11-1/2 5 4·75 4 6·8 4 4·79 4 2·3

12 5 7·05 4 10·6 4 7·92 4 6·05

12-1/2 5 4 4 13 4 11·5 4 7·73

13 6 4·25 5 3·42 4 12·75 4 13·33

13-1/2 6 1·72 5 4·26 4 12·5 5 0·63

14 6 10·5 5 5·82 5 5·87 5 1·14


Age Council A Council B Council C
st. lb. st. lb. st. lb.
7 3 1 2 13·1 3 5
7-1/2 3 2·6 3 3 3 8
3 6·85 3 3·9 3 2·16
8-1/2 3 8 3 5·5 3 4·7
3 10 3 7·9 3 6·5
9-1/2 3 10·85 3 10·5 3 8·05
4 1·5 3 12·3 3 10·75
10-1/2 3 13·46 4 3·57 3 11·2
11 4 5·28 4 6·5 4 0·25
11-1/2 4 4·7 4 5·2 4 4·57
12 5 1·31 4 11·07 4 11·7
12-1/2 5 7·3 4 11·7 4 13·12
13 5 0·3 5 3·16 5 3·3
13-1/2 5 10·5 5 5·8 5 4
14 6 9·3 5 4·57 5 12

A is a school where the parents were comparatively well-to-do and the
children mostly had comfortable homes.

B is a school where the parents were mostly small shopkeepers or
labourers in constant employment.

C is a school where the parents were mostly unemployed or casually


The latter half of the nineteenth century was remarkable for the birth
of a new social conscience manifesting itself in every kind of social
movement. Some were mere outbursts of sentimentality, pauperising and
patronising, others indicated real care and sympathy for the weaker
members of society, others again a love of scientific method and order.
Thus in the early 'sixties there was an enormous growth in the amount
spent in charity, leading to hopeless confusion. An attempt to introduce
some order into this chaos and to stem the tide of indiscriminate
almsgiving was made in 1868 by the formation of the "Society for the
Prevention of Pauperism and Crime," which split the following year into
the Industrial Employment Association and the better known Charity
Organisation Society. In the 'eighties "slumming" became a fashionable
occupation, while 1884 saw the beginning of the Settlement movement in
the foundation of Toynbee Hall. Meanwhile the working classes were
becoming articulate, learning more self-reliance and mutual dependence.
The growth of Trade Unions, of Co-operative and Friendly societies,
showed how the working people were beginning to work out their own
salvation. Towards the close of the century methods of improvement were
nearly all on collectivist lines - in sanitary reform, in free education,
in the agitation for a legal limitation of labour to eight hours a day,
for a minimum wage and for Old Age Pensions.

Amongst the most characteristic of these activities was the movement for
the feeding of poor school children. In the early years of the movement
the motives were chiefly philanthropic. The establishment of the Ragged
and other schools had brought under the notice of teachers and others
large numbers of children, underfed and ill-clothed. Still more was this
the case when education was made compulsory under the Education Act of
1870. It was impossible for humanitarians to attempt to educate these
children without at the same time trying to alleviate their distress.
Education, in fact, proved useless if the child was starving; more, it
might be positively detrimental, since the effort to learn placed on the
child's brain a task greater than it could bear. All these early
endeavours to provide meals were undertaken by voluntary agencies. Their
operations were spasmodic and proved totally inadequate to cope with the
evil. Towards the end of the century we find a growing insistence on the
doctrine that it was the duty of the State to ensure that the children
for whom it provided education should not be incapable, through lack of
food, of profiting by that education. On the one hand some socialists
demanded that the State ought itself to provide food for all its
elementary school children. Another school of reformers urged that
voluntary agencies might in many areas deal with the question, but that
where their resources proved inadequate the State must step in and
supplement them. Others again objected to any public provision of meals
on the ground that it would undermine parental responsibility. The
demand that the State must take some action was strengthened by the
alarm excited during the South African war by the difficulty experienced

Online LibraryM. E. (Mildred Emily) BulkleyThe Feeding of School Children → online text (page 1 of 24)