An author who grew up in Castlegar has had his first book nominated for a humanities prize.
Ian Mosby graduated from Stanley Humphries Secondary School and his first book, Food Will Win the War: The Politics, Culture, and Sciences of Food on Canada’s Home Front, is currently a finalist for the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences’ Canada Prize in the Humanities.
“It’s a book about the role that food played in the mobilization of the home front in Canada in the Second World War,” explains Mosby, who has a PhD in history from York University. “So it looks at things like food rationing, popular nutrition campaigns and women’s voluntary work.”
Working on the book, Mosby was surprised to find that rationing wasn’t as much of a hardship as he’d imagined.
“The surprising thing I found is that I assumed going in that rationing would mean austerity, it would mean cutting back on a lot of food, but what I found was Canadians actually ate better during the war than they had for decades,” he says. “In fact it wasn’t at that level again until at least the late 1950s or 1960s, and part of that was because there was a lot of government control of food with the idea of making more accessible to everyone.”
The Second World War also marked the beginning of the government’s role in nutrition.
“The war saw the creation of Canada’s official food rules, which would go on to be renamed Canada’s Food Guide, which still exists,” he says. “So the war is really the starting point of the federal government, at least, getting involved in Canadian’s nutrition.”
Another aspect of food Mosby looked at while writing the book was the role of women, who were expected to not only participate in the work force, but also continue managing their family’s nutrition.
“This was a period where women were called on to enter ‘male occupations’ like welder or riveter or factory worker, but at the same time women were still expected to maintain the role of — they called it at the time — house soldiers, keeping their family well fed and healthy,” he explains.
Mosby’s research on Food Will Win the War, which was published in 2014, led him to work with First Nations, looking at nutritional experiments that were conducted in residential schools.
“A lot of people responsible for creating things like the Canada Food Guide also sought to test some of their nutritional theories on human beings and they ended up using children in residential schools as guinea pigs for experiments on various nutritional issues.”
Mosby is currently working on a number of projects that connect food and colonialism, as well as experiments in the post-war period where Indigenous Peoples in Canada were used as subjects.
“It’s a change in direction for me as a food historian, but I’m really lucky. The experiments I studied, there were six schools and they were across the entire country, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet survivors from almost all of the schools and travelled around the country meeting residential schools survivors,” he says. “So I’ve learned a lot in that time that’s really changed the way I look at Canadian history and my role in history.”
Food Will Win the War has already collected one award, co-winning the Political History Group Book Prize from the Canadian Historical Society.