Special Articles

Canada Must Practise Food Thrift

Hon. W. J. Hanna November 1 1917
Special Articles

Canada Must Practise Food Thrift

Hon. W. J. Hanna November 1 1917

Canada Must Practise Food Thrift

Special Articles

Hon. W. J. Hanna

With Introductory Sketch by Britton B. Cooke

UNDERSTAND! There can not possibly be any good thing said of the Food Controller of Canada. That his name is W. J. Hanna makes no difference. That he was once a Tory Provincial Secretary in Ontario, and not a bad one, alters no jot or tittle of the indictment against him. He works for nothing—but that serves only to heighten our suspicion. He works long hours and lives frugally— which may be said of some of the ablest rogues in history. But the truth which must be faced is: That a Food Controller in the Dominion of Canada in the year 1917 can not fail to be a villain. If he were in England, or in the United States, or Paraguay, he might be otherwise, but in Canada not the great Gabriel himself could keep his wings clean.

You think, for example, that fifty-cent butter and forty-ninecent bacon are outrageous. So, no doubt, does W. J. Hanna. You consider the price of bread and milk high enough to warrant lynchings. So, no doubt, does Hanna. England, you say, is better off than Canada. Canadian food sells cheaper there than where it is produced. The United States at least has oleomargarine to grease its bread, and a Food Controller with a large jaw and a reputation for getting great things done in very short order. Hanna has the jaw but not the reputation. He has the work without the credit, the suffering without the glory. And he deserves it Half a dozen Canadians of distinction had an opportunity to look over the Food Controllership before Hanna volunteered. They looked, they sniffed and they turned their backs. They saw in it just what Hon. W. J. Hanna is seeing in it to-day—trouble. They picked up their coat-tails and backed off, on tip-toe. Like foxes that have scented a bear trap covered in leaves, they stood back to watch the bear get caught. And caught he is.

Some morning next week — any week — watch the Toronto train dump its load of uncomfortable passengers on the platform of the Central Station at Ottawa. Among them you will be certain to see one morning or another, a low-set, heavy figure of a man, with black hair and grey eyes and positively the biggest head and the biggest pair of rimless spectacles you have ever seen. While the commercial travellers, stepping elegantly down, hand their grips to the eager red-caps, this man totes his own well-worn little grip with the air of one who despairs of ever getting rid of it, or of the necessity of living without it. This is Hanna. The commercial travellers, the young politicians and the civil servants arriving by this train, sail with an elegant air into the dining room of the Chateau and luxuriate cn an expense-account breakfast, or descending to the barber-shop, abandon themselves to the delights of the barber’s chair. Not so Hanna. He paddles along with a far-sighted look in his eyes and eats one of those breakfasts recommended by his hirelings for the abused Canadian public. There is no swarm of admiring office-seekers at his elbow, such as love to court a public man with luscious offices in his gift. No obsequious lobby workers offer him cigars. The Food Controller of Canada is nobody’s friend. The farmers don't want to talk to him because they think he is trying to cheat them out of their long-dreamed of harvest of high prices. The consumers have no use for him because they think he should butcher the farmer and the middleman on sight and wherever found. Alone, distrusted, unsung and damned, the man who rashly volunteered to play butler to the Canadian family in a house three thousand miles long, boards a bobtailed Ottawa street car and plods absent-mindedly to his shabby offices jn an old rat-trap across the business section of the town. That is Hanna. With the seas wide open to Allied ships and the storehouses of the world to draw upon Great Britain and her Allies gave little thought to the food problem in the earlier stages of the war. Food conservation was a problem exclusively for the attention of the Germans. It became so serious a situation for the enemy that food control was undertaken almost at once. The Imperial authorities took ruthless charge of everything pertaining to the food supply of the country. Supplies were commandeered, prices were set, restrictions as to consumption were placed. The people went on short rations. Substitutes became the order of the day —tasteless, unappetizing substances, for the most part, lacking in nutritious qualities. The arbitrary' measures that the German Government took were possible only because the Government had full power of lffe and death over every ablebodied man in the country. Such men as were fit to serve at the front were put into uniform. Practically all others were pressed into state service or sent to the munition factories. The elaborate structure of industry and business was stripped bare of men. The fixing of food prices became possible because the authorities took the crops from the farmer and supervised its distribution to the people. The whole machinery of distribution which had previously prevailed there, as it does still in America where business goes on as usual, had been swept away. But even in Germany, let it be added, price fixing and food control have not been exactly successful. Prices have soared, supplies have been hoarded, measures have been rescinded and amended and replaced, the populace have clamored mightily and people have starved in some sections while food profiteers fattened in still other parts of the Hohenzollern domain.


THE thought I want to impress upon the people of Canada is that the great needs of the moment are, first, increased production of food and second, food conservation. During the past summer splendid results were achieved by the zealous city and townspeople who did their “bit” on the land. Now that winter is upon us, however, the matter of increased production rests purely and simply with the farmer. It is a question of increased acreage, and unquestionably the farmer, as a class, is doing his utmost to increase his fall plowing, so that more land will be available for cultivation in the spring.

The situation in so far as the average household is concerned comes down, therefore, to the matter of Food Conservation. Every patriotic Canadian who desires to do his or her share toward winning the war, can play a part by helping along the campaign to save food in every conceivable way.

The war has become a sheer test of endurance, the Central Powers lined up on one side, the Allies on the other. It is not merely a fight to the finish in the matter of shells and men. It is a struggle in which both sides are striving to outlast the other, not only in shells and men, but in money and food as well. The Allies have a preponderance in men and in capacity for shell production. We are in a much sounder position financially. But what of the food problem?

What Women Can Do

See that no food is wasted.

Strive to find a use for all “left-overs.”

Do not serve elaborate meals for company.

Do not serve elaborate teas.

Do not serve young lamb.

Do all shopping in person and not over phone. Observe regulations as to beefless and baconless days and all others that may be laid down. Devise economy dishes.

TT OWEVER, we are digressing. It is certain that the intense sufferings of the German people in the matter of food precipitated the submarine campaign. They were determined that the hated “Englanders” should suffer as they were doing; and so the mandate went out for the U-boats to start. Twice the submarine campaign has been started, and it is still being prosecuted with such vigor and frightfulness that the food problem has become one of intense moment to Britain as well as to Germany. The Uboats infest the seas to-day and the factories of Germany are working day and night to replace those that the British sink. The underseas campaign will be carried on as long as Germany has the will to continue the war; and so the food problem will continue among the most pressing that the Allied nations must con-

By the most unsparing of individual effort the British people have succeeded in solving the problem to some extent. Every square foot of land available has been plowed up. Men of all ages and ranks and degrees of portliness have turned in at the work. Women of gentle birth have taken their places with women of the slums in doing the work that men formerly did. But all this is not sufficient and to-day the eyes of the Mother Country turn across the Atlantic. Canada and the United States, with their huge stretches of tillable soil, can produce enough food to keep the Allies fed indefinitely if the non-combatant population of these two countries resolve individually and collectively to do their share.

/\ S stated before, the need at present is for the conservation of food. If we use less food and waste less, if we eschew luxuries and save our supplies for the manufacture of the most wholesome of foods, we can send more food and still more food for our hard-pressed people across the seas. This matter of conservation also, mark you, is one that must be solved by individual participation. The Government could force food conservation

by stepping in and taking over all supplies, and then supervising the distribution. But this would mean complete conscription of labor in Canada. It would mean tearing down the machinery of distribution which gives employment to the bulk of the population of all big cities. It would precipitate opposition so bitter and conditions so trying that it is infinitely preferable to obtain the results desired by educating the people to individual action.

A ND, now, just what can each individual do to help? Take the man first. He can eat less. It is a fact attested by all medical men that the average person eats too much. The Germans are perhaps not more unhealthy under the conditions

What each Canadian must get into his or her head is: “This means me. It does not mean my neighbor or the people of another section or the Government officials or the Food Controller. It is my duty. If I am too indifferent or too selfish to help, I am failing to do my duty in this supreme hour of need. If the number of others who fail callously and ingloriously as I am doing, is large, then it may mean that the measure of assistance so urgently needed from Canada will not be forthcoming.”

of food shortage than they were when, as a nation, they over-ate and over-drank. The average man can eat what is most wholesome and eschew foods that he is asked to save. He can refuse to eat beef and bacon on the days set and insist that in his household this rule, and such rules as may later be laid down, are closely adhered to. He can give co-operation to his wife by cheerfully eating whatever economy foods she may, in her zeal for the good cause, place before him. He can accept bread puddings when his taste runs to expensive pastry. Furthermore, he can eat light lunches and bring the restaurant-keepers around to co-operation by insisting on this same policy of food frugality. He can refuse to give or attend heavy dinners or banquets.

IT is, however, the woman of the house who can do the greatest part in this national campaign of food thrift. The woman can see to it that no food is wasted, that remnants of roasts and ends of loaves are not thrown into the garbage, that all oversupplies of vegetables and puddings are kept for a reappearance or for inclusion in a new dish. The amount of waste that goes on in the average Canadian home, where prosperity exists, is astoundingly large. Multiply this waste tens of thousands of times over and the result is shocking, appalling!

The woman can do her share by adhering to such rules for food regulation and regular abstinence as may be laid down. She can devise economies and plans for reducing the food consumption on her table. She can refrain from placing expensive and elaborate meals for company. She can stop serving dainty and expensive lunches, afternoon teas and after-theatre suppers.

She can help to keep prices down by shopping in person and thus bringing shrewd common sense to her buying. The telephone habit has done much to send prices up.

If these rules were zealously and c o n s i s tently followed in every household ln Canada the result would be incalculably great. Enough food would be saved to go a long way indeed toward solving the situation that the Allies face. And, mark this closely, n most important step would have been taken toward the reduction of food prices. Keep demand within bounds and prices tumble!

So much for the duty of the individual. If this responsibility were universally accepted there would be no question about our being able to do our share toward provisioning our Allies for the period of strain that is ahead.

AS Food Controller I have come in for a great deal of criticism. This I expected, of course. There would, I believe, be less criticism if the Department of Food Control had undertaken something of a drastic nature. If certain foods had been absolutely prohibited, if prices for certain lines had been arbitrarily fixed, if indictments had been lodged against wholesalers, the public appetite for drastic action would, to some extent, perhaps, have been appeased. To do anything of this nature would, however, have had no effect on the general situation other than to upset certain industries and work unnecessary hardships on individuals. Instead, the Department of Food Control has endeavored to work along lines that would bring about the results desired without working an injustice to any one class, without hampering the farmer, or throwing out of employment thousands who are engaged in the process of distribution.

This is not the time to enter into long explanations or to forecast the plans for the future. Certain facts might, however, be laid before the readers of this article for their careful and intelligent consideration. Start at the producing end.

Here, you think, is the place to start making food cheap by cutting down the price paid the producer. Right! But be careful. The price of wheat can be fixed.

and has been fixed, but that does not mean that the present price of other commodities can be as easily settled — or settled at all. Wheat is a commodity easily graded and easily kept. There has long been a great international trade in wheat and the business world is always able to estimate just about how much wheat there is, and where, and what the demand will be. Much more is known about wheat, and most common grains, than about the human race itself. But almost every other food is perishable, varied in size, taste, texture and cost of production. You can see at a glance that potatoes cannot be graded as wheat is graded. Farmer “A” may have half a car of good potatoes mixed with half a car of poor potatoes all from the same field and the same variety.

Farmer “B” may have the same variety but grown on different soil. A's may be fairly good and B’s excellent. If potatoes were wheat they could all be pooled in an elevator and “averaged up,” but being perishable this cannot be done.

These objections, you say, are trifling. They only make the work of classification difficult. They don’t make it impossible to place a fair price on potatoes. But something else steps in. What is a fair fixed price for Farmer “A” is not a fair fixed price for Farmer “B”, and Farmer "B” may, as easily as not, find it unprofitable to dig his potatoes at all for the "fair price.” The law might then confiscate his crop, but it would then have to dig them —and keep an army of helpers to do it. In England a “maximum price” was fixed on potatoes one day and' the next day rescinded and called a “minimum price.”

TAKE this little episode regarding fish. One member of the Fish Committee urged that an Order-in-Counci! be passed ordaining that no fisherman should raise the then-current prices of fish. Fortunately no such order was issued. For had such been the case the fishing industry would have been crippled and prices would ultimately have been driven high bysheer scarcity of fish. As everyone knows, fishing is hazardous. A long series of storms may keep the vessels in port and a shortage may develop. If the fish-buyers are not then allowed to offer extra prices for fish the schooner-crews are not likely to stir themselves until the storms abate. Or, if a vessel brings in a trip of fish and is offered a price lower than the fishermen think they should get, she will sail for some American port, where prices are always higher, or the crew may turn to, split and salt the catch and hand them over to the exporting firms.

A price of twenty-one cents per pound was fixed on Canadian cheese at Montreal for export to Great Britain. This simply resulted in more milk being turned into the condensers, or butter factories, or sold to city dealers. Similarly, if the price of butter is not allowed to fluctuate the milk that might be used for butter will be diverted to other uses.

It is true that the Food Controller had all but completed a schedule of milk prices for Canadian cities to go into effect November 1st—but that, at the time of writing, has been seriously affected by the increase in the price offered for milk for export to the Allied armies.

Some commodities are too varied to be subject to successful price fixing. Others can be marketed by the producers in other forms, as in the case of milk and fish. And all production prices in Canada are subject to the demand of the export trade. This is where Canada differs completely from Great Britain and almost as completely from the United States. Lord Rhondda, in London, deals chiefly with foodstuffs originating outside of the United Kingdom. Production costs are for him, more or less, fixed. For the pro¡ ducers’ cost of foods produced at home is practically determined by the cost of the j same foods from overseas when landed on I British wharves. Production costs are a simple thing for Lord Rhondda to fix, j because production in England is subject j to foreign competition and foreign proI duction fixes itself to a very large extent. In Canada production prices are subject to no foreign competition. Rather, they are stimulated by competition among j foreign buyers. England is a funnel into which food is being poured. Canada is a I bottle which is always being drained. In this respect Canada differs from the United States in that she is being drained by that country as well as by England. More than half of our annual catch of fish is taken by the United States, and the United States would go fish-hungry if we cut them off in order to make fish cheaper for Canada. So with milk and many other lines. We have the Entente Powers buying in Canada, and the United States buying in Canada. Embargoes are impossible, first of all, because the armies must be fed, and, secondly, because our embargoes on Canadian fish, for example, might provoke retaliatory measures by the Americans. We could be cut off from the supply of anthracite—or of the linen thread, without which our fishermen need not go to sea.

Continued on page 60

What Men Can Do

I'.ut less I'niil.

Ilefuse bacon and heef on the days set. Accept cheerfully any economy dishes that

Eat light lunches eucl demand thaï restaurants live up to regulations.

Ilefuse to give or attend elaborate lunches.

(live up sappers after the theatre, ho not grumble, .leapt all "restrictions cheerfully.

Continued from page 45

AI L persons in ordering their food ought to consider ^ 'ho needs of Great Britain, the Allies and the armies for wheat, beef and bacon. The Food Controller requires the public to do everything in their power to make these commodities available for expon by eating as little as possible of them, by using substitutes and by avoiding

j T F the people in Canada will bear some of these considerations in mind they I will appreciate the difficulties and the necessity for caution in dealing with the food situation. All that the Government could do by drastic measures can be accomplished much more easily if the people themselves will unite on a broad and rigorous policy of food thrift. It has been in the interests of the individual and with due regard to his privileges and his comfort even, that a policy of education has been adopted rather than the Prussian precept of force with all the discomfort and unemployment and necessity for adjustments painful to the individual I that it would entail.