The sentence is:
What would the people eat?
Can it mean "What are the people going to eat?" in future Or, "What were the people going to eat?" talking about future from past Or, both?
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Here are two examples. (I just made them up, so please excuse my pedestrian style.)
(1) Retrospective Before the French revolution, there were food shortages. Even bread was becoming scarce. What would the people eat? Marie Antoinette came up with a brilliant idea: "Let them eat cake!"*
(2) Prospective Egypt's government could decide to devaluate the country's currency but that would make food imports prohibitively expensive, and then what would the people eat?
*According to Wikipedia this is apocryphal and she never said that.