World War II Rationing

When the United Stated entered World War II, Americans needed to make sacrifices and they were encouraged to conserve on everything.

The Food Rationing Program began in spring 1942. The program controlled supply and demand, managed public response to shortages, and prevented the wealthy from purchasing all the food and goods.

While people had to give up many material goods, there was an increase in employment. People participated in activities like scrap drives, taking factory jobs, goods donations and other similar projects to support soldiers on the front.

Government-sponsored ads, radio shows, posters and pamphlets urged Americans to contribute to the war effort. This propaganda was an effective tool in mobilizing the home front.

Each family was issued a "War Ration Book," which served like money. Each stamp authorized purchase of rationed goods in the quantity and time designated, and the book guaranteed each family its fair share. The coupon books did not guarantee that the goods were actually available.

Clothing, shoes, coffee, gasoline, tires, and fuel oil were also rationed. Each coupon book gave specifications and deadlines. Rationing locations were posted in public view. Rationing of gas and tires strongly depended on the distance to one's job.

A black market arose, where people could illegally buy rationed items at higher prices. Black marketeers sold meat, sugar and gasoline for profit.

The home front made daily sacrifices, which most people accepted calmly. The Office of War Information raised morale with posters that made statements like “Do with less so they’ll have enough."

Recycling of materials like metal, paper and rubber was popular during World War II. Recycled aluminum cans could be used to make ammunition. Communities held scrap-iron drives, and schoolchildren pasted saving stamps into bond books.

Others planted "Victory Gardens" to grow their own food. By 1945, an estimated 20 million victory gardens produced approximately 40 percent of America's vegetables.

Training sessions were held to teach women to shop wisely, to conserve food and plan nutritious meals, and to can food items. The government convinced people to give up large amounts of red meats and fats, leading to healthier eating.

The government also printed a monthly meal-planning guide with recipes and a daily menu. Good Housekeeping printed a special section for rationed foods in its 1943 cookbook.

Rationing ended in 1946. Life returned to normal and the consumption of meat, butter, and sugar gradually rose.

Source: World War II Rationing
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