MOSCOW, NOV. 30 -- "What do you make from flour?" the teacher at Children's boarding School No. 24 asked her two dozen pupils today, hoisting a kilogram sack from the first shipment of Western food aid to arrive in Moscow.
"Blini!" they chorused, smiling at the prospect of sweet Russian pancakes for dinner.
"And what do you say?" their teacher continued.
"Thank you!" they responded.
As the first planeload of donated food from Germany was distributed to orphanages and children's hospitals, the generosity spread in other Western nations. Vienna promised 100,000 food parcels for Moscow's children, and organizations in the United States, Italy and the Nordic countries prepared shipments of milk, flour, canned goods and other staples.
In Leningrad, Pravda reported, ambulances have been collecting victims of fainting from hunger, heart attacks and broken ribs from the lines outside shops. The price of carrots doubled as citizens braced for Saturday's start of Leningrad's first rationing program since the Nazi siege of World War II.
The cities of Chelyabinsk and Nizhny Novgorod, formerly called Gorki, also will start rationing food Saturday.
At Children's Hospital No. 3 in Moscow, warehouse clerk Yulia Bodganova gratefully received a German gift of beans, chicken soup and flour -- even though the hospital has been better supplied than the city at large. This week its food supplier warned that the young patients could no longer be spared the shortages.
"We've received no sour cream or cottage cheese for three days," she said. The usual deliveries of cheese and eggs also had evaporated.
Soviet officials have said the country has produced no less food this year than last, despite the barren shelves that have panicked shoppers into hoarding and exacerbating the shortages.
President Mikhail Gorbachev issued a decree today directing workers at businesses and schools to elect "workers' control committees" to check warehouses, trade organizations and stores against black marketeering, theft or other misuse of food and consumer goods. The committees would have the right to temporarily close facilities involved in wrongdoing and to recommend criminal proceedings.
Moscow Mayor Gavril Popov said Muscovites soon will be given passes allowing them to purchase goods in specific stores at specific times, to help people who complain that the shelves are empty when they get off work. Permits will specify the store, date, time and amount of money an individual can spend.
Washington Post correspondent T. R. Reid reported the following from Tokyo:
The Japanese cabinet, moving to bury the hatchet after 45 years of strained relations with Moscow, agreed today to send the Soviet Union emergency medical supplies and equipment.
The government agreed to send about $19.5 million worth of equipment to help the victims of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, plus an unspecified amount as general medical assistance.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Taizo Watanabe said Japan does not plan to send the Soviets food aid right now. But this could happen later, he said, if it becomes clear that Japanese food would be welcome and helpful.