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Eating for Health in Wartime and Postwar Britain

The Centre for the History of Medicine at Warwick and the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) Healing Arts Programme are presenting an exhibition of posters relating to food and health in Britain from 1940-1980.

leafletPoster exhibition

This exhibition explores the important role of striking, Avant-garde images within national health campaigns since the Second World War. It highlights how emotive visions of infant welfare and gender were key visual components of such campaigns. The wartime reliance on food propaganda encouraged citizens to ‘Dig for Victory’ and ‘Eat Greens’ through a memorable – and indeed still popular and frequently reproduced – canon of slogans and images. This successful campaign to inform and enlist the British public in health-promoting activities established an important precedent for considering diet and nutrition in visual ways. National food and health campaigns continued after the War, continually (if not always quickly) adapting to the changing diets of the population as a variety of international foods, ready-meals and low-fat foods became popular. Increasingly, these campaigns attempted to tackle heart disease and obesity by highlighting the importance of healthy foods and exercise.

Most of the posters on display in this exhibition were produced during the 1940s and 1950s during the context of food rationing. In contrast, a further two date from the late 1970s and focus on over-eating and obesity as health problems in Britain. These posters convey the government’s use of cutting-edge wartime and post war artistry to convey ideas of healthy eating. They demonstrate how images, colour, line and form were utilised to create striking, eye-catching posters centred on food and health.

Get involved

A launch event will be held at University Hospital, Coventry on the May 8 at 5pm in the Union House Cafe, Main Mall. This exhibition is coordinated by Jane Hand, a doctoral candidate at the Centre for the History of Medicine with the assistance of Emma Linnane, Arts Coordinator of the Healing Arts Programme at UHCW.

Exhibition poster (PDF Document)

If you would like to contribute your memories of wartime and post-war propaganda or health education information visit to leave your memories. The exhibition runs at the University Hospital, Coventry until September 2014.