Guest curator Jane Levi presented the multi-faceted impact that food and eating regimes had on children at the Foundling Hospital

Based on new research, guest curator Jane Levi presented the multi-faceted impact that food and eating regimes had on children at the Hospital from 1740 to 1950. This fascinating story was explored through art, archival material, photographs and the voices of former pupils, whose memories of food are captured in the Museum’s extensive sound archive.

Feeding the 400 exploded myths and misconceptions around eating at the Hospital, demonstrating how the institution’s food choices were far more than just questions of economy, nutrition and health. Working with historians, scientists and cultural practitioners, the exhibition brought alive the connections between what, when, where and why the foundlings ate what they ate; the beliefs and science that underpinned these decisions; and their physiological and psychological effects. Alongside archival material, paintings and objects including tableware from the Foundling Museum Collection, a newly commissioned sound work evoked the experience of communal eating, conjuring sounds common to the Hospital’s dining rooms.

To coincide with the exhibition, we asked Verita to undertake an independent review into governance arrangements at the Foundling Hospital with regard to its procurement of milk. Read their full report into the Hospital’s 20-year ‘milk scandal’ here.

During the exhibition we invited members of the public to submit memories and stories of the foods that conjured up childhood. The sight, smell and taste of a particular food can bring back memories of some of life’s most poignant moments. Everyone has a favourite or, in some cases, a most hated dish with which they can recall moments from their childhood. Feeding Memory features pictures, recipes and stories about the foods that played important roles in our lives when we were growing up. With recipes from leading chefs and food writers to members of the public, we created a community archive of childhood food memories.

I must commend Feeding the 400 to you this holiday season. Make a detour. Break off, temporarily, from your ceaseless shopping... its beneficent effects will see you right through to New Year’s Day at least
Rachel Cooke, The Observer
A new exhibition on food at the Foundling Museum is worth digesting
Nancy Durrant, The Times
Dickensian deprivation is what one expects, but something much more nutritious is delivered
Polly Russell, FT Weekend
...infant and child nutrition is not a new science and the challenge of nurturing, not least keeping children alive before the age of five, was taken just as seriously two centuries ago as it is now
Rose Prince, The Spectator

Kindly supported by a Wellcome Trust People Award, Verita and The 1739 Club