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[Perspectives] Alimentary education

Charles Dickens’s savage 1837 satire of the parish workhouse system in Oliver Twist has provided an archetype of the pauper infant’s diet in the 19th century. But Feeding the 400, a thoughtful exhibition at London’s Foundling Museum, sets out to challenge the gruel cliché. The Foundling Hospital’s vast and well preserved archive reveals how, over two centuries, a minimum of 400 mouths were fed three times a day. Its food management programme involved colossal bureaucracy, which is why we know exactly what, and how much, was consumed.