Communal feeding was urged by the Ministry of Food to ensure that certain sections of the population received proper nourishment but also to economise on food supplies. Ipswich Emergency Committee considered the question during September 1940, but did not progress any arrangements as it found it very difficult to ascertain the demand for such a service. However given the importance placed on such arrangements by the Ministry of Food, during December1940 it was agreed to establish a canteen in the disused canteen in the Boy’s Central School, at the rear of Tower Ramparts. The canteen was to be run by an Executive Sub-Committee of the lady members of the Special Committee appointed to deal with Communal Feeding. The canteen was to provide midday meals on Mondays to Fridays and if successful the scheme was to be rolled out wherever demand existed.
At first a paid supervisor, Mrs Davies of Chelmondiston, was appointed to run the canteen at a wage of £2 a week. Other help would be provided by voluntary workers but if there was sufficient demand, further paid staff would be taken on. The canteen was expected to be self-supporting, but the Ministry of Food expected the Council to meet any initial capital expenditure.
The canteen was to open on Jan 20th 1941 and serve meals between 12 noon and 2 pm with the following charges for courses:
It was estimated that the canteen would serve 200 meals in its first week and an indent was placed with the Divisional Food Officer in order to obtain permits for priority delivery of certain foodstuffs that was available for Communal Feeding. By February 1941, it was reported that the canteen had served over 2,000 meals in the first two weeks, averaging 200 a day! Additional paid staff had been taken on (cook and part time assistant for washing up) and it was decided to open a second canteen in the basement at the Arcade entrance to the Public Hall.
Early in 1941, the Ministry of Food directed that the name “British Restaurants” be used instead of Communal Feeding Centres. A directive was also received from the Ministry of Food to put in place plans for Emergency Feeding Centres – the Ipswich scheme was to be able to deal with 10,000 persons, with proposed centres as follows:
Above: Suggested Emergency Feeding Centres. Those marked with (R) were also to act as Rest Centres. The Ranelagh and Gainsborough sites were proposed British Restaurants which were capable of expansion to act as Emergency Feeding Centres.
It was understood the Ministry of Food would provide the necessary equipment and meet any expenditure required to ensure the selected buildings were suitable as Emergency Feeding Centres. The scheme was to run along similar grounds to Communal Feeding i.e. to be self-supporting with people paying for their meal. Food was to be supplied by the Ministry for Food. The Ministry had agreed to supply Ipswich with the following:
These were to be stored at a central depot that had been established at the Clifford Road Schools. It was recognised that it would be beneficial to have some dispersion of food stocks, including about 10% held outside the Town; Hadleigh, Needham Market and Claydon were all considered as possibilities. Due to the nature of the food stocks, some of which required a frequent turnover, there was a limitation to the amount of dispersion that could take place. Representatives of the grocery, milk and bakery trades were also contacted to make arrangements for the delivery of food in an emergency. Staffing was considered and along with the members of the Special Committee to deal with Communal feeding it was thought that the cooperation of Rest Centre staff and staff at the schools involved would be available.
Due to the success of the Canteens in supplying meals to the central area of the Town, during 1941/2 it was decided to open additional restaurants in the outlying districts:
Right: Canteens opened and meals served
from Jan 20th 1941 to 28th Feb 1942
The Tower Ramparts and Whitton Restaurants were closed and handed over to the Education Committee to enable them to be used for a Government scheme to provide mid-day meals to School children. The Special Committee on Communal Feeding also arranged with the Dock Commission to take over the management of the Dockers' Canteen. The Ranelagh Road Canteen was used jointly by the Special Committee for Communal Feeding and the Education Committee. Some capital expenditure was required to meet these demands, e.g. brick buildings built at Whitton School. However as the canteens were financially self-supporting, the Committee was not called on to meet this expenditure. These British Restaurants could also operate immediately in the emergency feeding of large sectors of the public should the need arise.
By 1943 the six canteens were still operating, but due to the increased provision of meals in factories and the provision of mid-day meals in schools, it was not found necessary to open any new restaurants. The restaurants now employed 49 paid staff and were supported by voluntary workers, some who had been volunteering for two years. The increase in paid staff was partly due however to a fall in voluntary workers as some volunteers had been directed to paid employment by the Ministry of Labour.
The canteens served their millionth meal during 1944. Old Age Pensioners now received meals at a reduced cost. By March 1945, the Canteens had served 1,150,703 meals and gross receipts were £48,243 while costs were £47,668 since inauguration.