World War II helped to end the Great Depression. There were now jobs for the unemployed and food on the table. To encourage patriotism victory gardens were implemented. This was a way that people would show their support for the troops and have a little extra food on the table.  In this way the government was able to influence people to support the troops. It also allowed for people to have fresh fruits and vegetables that were not formally available. This introduction of patriotism to the American public influenced their thinking. The video at the bottom of the page, taken from archive.org, shows a family with a victory garden.

Food was in short supply during World War II, this was due to supplying food to our troops and to Allied troops. In order to control food shortages rationing was introduced in 1942. Food rationing was not only based on how much you consumed but on also getting a nutritious diet. The government used nutritionist to determine what the average person would need to have a healthy diet. The information gathered during this phase of rationing was latter put into a table and became the Recommended Daily Dietary Allowances (RDA). The RDA of the time was not always correct; some of the allowances were based on guess. With further scientific discoveries the RDA has been modified over the years and now has a more complete guideline to follow. (Berdanier, C. D. 2006).

When rationing was implemented one ration book was given to everybody. In the book the color of the stamps determined what you could buy, red for meat and butter, blue for fruit and vegetables. You could not save these stamps and buy later, they all had an expiration date on them. If used to late you were out of luck. Sugar eventually had its own stamp but sugar was so rare that you were not guaranteed to receive some. A person was allowed approximately one cup of sugar a week. In order to have special treats, for example birthday cakes, neighbors would combine their sugar. Not all food was rationed. You could have your own chickens for eggs, or cows for meat.(Crossen, C. 2007, March 5; Berdanier, C. D. 2006).

Ration line

This was of course a hard time for the American consumer. They were not used to rationing and had a difficult time making meals with what they had on hand. In order to combat this problem the USDA sent out people in the Extension Service to show housewives how to make good nutritious meals for their families. They also encouraged victory gardens because that food was not rationed.(Berdanier, C. D. 2006).

With the help of the Extension Services the American housewife invented such things as California chicken, which had no chicken in it but had potatoes, peas and canned tuna. Turkey was also hard to come by, they would use meatloaf and shape it into a turkey to make it look more appetizing. The American people rallied behind the troops and made due with what they had. (Crossen, C. 2007, March 5).

As seen in the poster above food was not the only thing rationed. Heating oil was also in short supply. So short that you were encouraged not to heat your home all the time. In 1946 rationing ended but not all foods that were introduced during this time were forgotten. One childhood favorite macaroni and cheese is still loved by many today..(Berdanier, C. D. 2006).



Pictures are credited toward creative commons, video to archive.org

Berdanier, C. D. (2006). Food Shortages During World War II. Nutrition Today, 41(4), 160-163.

Crossen, C. (2007, March 5). In Wartime Kitchens, Dinner Was Sculpted From Grains and Paste. Wall Street Journal – Eastern Edition. p. B1.


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