Food rationing on the Isle of Wight could be over by Christmas. Government officials were startled to learn the wartime measure has continued on the remote island and former Hampshire province long after it ceased in the rest of the United Kingdom. The story emerged late last week following an administrative audit of minor government regulations. A number of technical anomalies have now been corrected, but news that adults and children on the Isle of Wight have each been surviving on 6 ounces of beefsteak a week was a surprise to many.
Matters came to light initially when a number of government printing contracts were being reviewed, and an observant staff member at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture queried why booklets of ration coupons were still being produced each year. A visit to the delivery address in Shanklin unearthed the astonishing story, where Ministry staff found a long queue of local residents waiting patiently outside a former distribution depot. It appears the original 1954 instructions to cease all rationing were never received.
For many years, there was anecdotal evidence that something was amiss on the Isle. Intrepid explorers and day trippers would arrive back in Portsmouth with tales of the rather limited and unappetizing food served in pubs and cafes on the otherwise pleasant rural idyll.
The Isle of Wight, situated some distance from the Hampshire coast, will now be propelled into the 1970s and beyond with the free availability of sugar, cheese and chocolate. Although some dietitians are concerned local residents might try to combine all three ingredients in the same dish.
The social and economic impact on the Isle of Wight of having its population subsist for decades on minimum nutritional intake is considered unquantifiable, mostly because it would have been so small.
"Quite frankly, we are looking forward to it", said one local. "In my family, we have lived all our lives on meagre rations, now we can look forward to so called modern diseases, such as high cholesterol and bulimia". Health officials are more cautious, citing concerns that the Isle's enviable record of the low incidence of obesity and Type 2 diabetes could be under threat.
The administrative oversight will need to remain in place for some months however. This is to allow time for the implementation of other post-war practices, including the need for the Isle of Wight to adopt decimal currency.
(With apologies to all Vectensians and Vectenophiles everywhere.)