“COVID-19, the worst crisis since the second world war”, WHO 2020
There have been several attempts to compare the current crisis since the second world war. Our government tried called on Britain’s resolve and national pride to encourage widespread social compliance with new laws restricting movement. Their rhetoric called on the same national effort which got London and the UK through the “Blitz”. I do not entirely agree with the comparison; however, there is a need for individuals to contribute to society so we can all get through this.
This got me thinking about the relationship between household, garden and the food on our table. All of my grandparents lived through and fought in the second world war, then experienced years of rationing after the war. My Grandfather on my mothers’ side was a sailor on warships protecting the Russian supply convoys and was in the diversionary fleet, outside Calise, on D-Day. My Grandfather on my fathers’ side was in a “protected role” driving trains between Norwich and London. His most significant complaint about the war was not able to dance with women in nightclubs because he didn’t have a uniform, but he was regularly strafed and bombed by German planes. Despite having different backgrounds during the war, they both had something in common, they both provided their kitchens with food from their garden. It is a similar story on my wife’s side of the family.
During the war, supply chains were under attack, so many items of food were restricted, and the government called on the people of Britain contribute by growing their own food. They already had the “Land Army” of women and men who tended the fields and the “Dig for Victory” campaign enlisted everyone in the country’s attempt to keep the country fed. Thousands upon thousands of allotments were made and given to people to cultivate, and others turned over their gardens to add some extra food to their table. For my family, and I expect many others, this need created a generation of people who knew how to grow their own to feed themselves and their families.
With global supply chains under pressure and a lack of a migrant workforce to pick and harvest this year’s crop, there is a genuine chance that some fresh produce will struggle to get to the shops and, at the very least, we could see an increase in price. It makes sense for people to start to “dig for victory” if they can. If I grow my own food, that means the food will be in the shops for someone who is not able to grow their own. I do not expect things will get as bad as they were during and after world war two, but there is a real strain on our supply chain, and this is the perfect time to learn skills which kept my grandfathers plates full into their 80’s and, using the well known Tesco’s slogan “Every Little Helps”.
Over the next 2 growing seasons, I plan to follow the advice from the wartime “Dig for Victory” publications to see if I can pick up some of the skills which kept my family going at their time of crisis.