100 years of healthy eating – class ideas

Malnutrition to Rationing to Obesity

Manor Gardens has been promoting healthy eating for over a 100 years around Holloway Road, in North London.  There have been three significant shifts in what healthy eating has meant over that time – from reducing malnutrition in the early days (from 1913), to promoting healthy eating during war-induced rationing, to our current focus on eating the right foods at a time of food abundance (for almost all people).

An idea for a lesson activity would be to have three cardboard boxes:

  • one box for 1913
  • one box for 1950
  • one box for today

Put objects and photographs in the boxes which give clues to the principle challenge related to healthy eating at that time.  You can then elicit the challenge facing health educators from your group, as they guess what the objects relate to.  These activities are probably suitable for yrs 3 to 4.



–  Community health centre in north London, off Holloway Road which was founded due to the high infant mortality rate in 1913.


Baby clinic c. 1915

Baby clinic c. 1915



Box 1:

– Picture of weighing scales (scales were the key tool for Dr’s to tell if a baby was well or not, and putting on enough weight)

Baby weighing c.1915 LMA_4314_07_001_0003

Baby weighing c.1915 LMA_4314_07_001_0003

-porridge (common food at that time)

– jellied food (food like jellied spinach and tomatoes was recommended for babies at that time)


100 years ago one out of ten babies in Islington, North London, died before the age of 1 (an infant mortality rate, roughly the same as Afghanistan today).  This death rate was partly due to how people ate.  Many poorer families did not have enough money to buy sufficient food.



– Rationing continued after WWII ended, here’s more information on rationing.

Box 2:

–  Helmet, paper aeroplanes, trowel, soil, potatoes, carrot (with leaves), Apple, Orange Juice

– Listen to Marian Fowler talk about rationing and eating rabbit


– photographs of Manor Gardens Vitamin C Campaign

Orange juice campaign launch 1953 MG_07_01_012_A Orange juice campaign 1 c.1953 LMA_4314_07_006_0001



People had to carefully share food between families in UK and they were only allowed to buy their fair share from the shops

– Lots of people people grew their own food: in their gardens, and on bits of ground which could be useful

– Manor Gardens tried to make sure you got healthy things, like Orange for its Vitamin C.



What problems do people face today with eating?

Box 3: Broccoli, fruit, fish; can of coke, bag of crisps (and sugar/fat equivalent in separate small freezer bags)

-which foods do your pupils like?  They can move around classroom to show this (one end denotes they like it a lot, the other end that they don’t like it at all.)

-which foods do they think are good for them?

-What do they think sugar and fat bags relate to (11g of lard / 40g of sugar)? Answer: a packet of crisps and a mars bar.



Many people eat too much nowadays unlike 65 or 100 years ago.  People have got to be careful not to eat too much sugar and fat, to make sure their heart doesn’t get damaged

Click here to download the eatwell plate, current guidance on healthy eating.


Food from Community Kitchens Project c. 2010


Our Community Kitchens Project at Manor Gardens currently shows people how to cook healthy meals, instead of buying food which has already been made for them, which is usually less healthy