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." JOHN RUSKIN.
The Citizen Series.
This Pamphlet will be followed by others, dealing with various phases of SOCIALISM from the Practical Side. HOW TO FEED THE CHILDREN. 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. NOT BIG ENOUGH. 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. 2 HOW TO FEED THE CHILDREN. PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY. 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.
11 HOW TO FEED THE CHILDREN. 11 A GREAT SUCCESS. 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. MAKE THE BEST OF THEM. 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. CHILDREN V DREADNOUGHTS. 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. 12 HOW TO FEED THE CHILDREN. What we make those children to-day, that the Nation will be to-morrow. 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)
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Edward Robertshaw Hartley (1855–1918)