I recently happened upon a BBC show on youtube chronicling the story of a British family attempting to recreate life on the home front during WWII. They lived in a restored house, and were subjected to air raid sirens and rationing. The series was a perfect combination of my interests; however, I was most intrigued by how severely the rationing impacted the family's quality of life. The two women in the house were left suffering the most, as any extra rations available went to the children. Although I've taught about WWII rationing for years, I never really was able to imagine how it would impact my food consumption. Fuel rationing was easy to imagine, as the maximum speed allowed throughout the country was 35 miles per hour. (I don't think I'd last a day attempting to drive at that speed!) Still, even though I had read the standard food allotments, it didn't translate into a picture of need. As a result, it prompted an investigation.
Rationing didn't last as long in the United States as it did in Britain, nor was it as harsh. Still it did exist, and it definitely had an impact on everyday consumption. It appears that non food items, such as fuel oil and rubber, were rationed for a longer period of time than food stuffs. Sugar was rationed from 1942 to 1947, and other foods - processed foods, meats, cheeses, canned fish and canned milk - were rationed in the latter years of the war. Keep in mind, even if one had enough points to purchase a particular produce, it didn't mean that that particular product would be available in any given week. It appears that there were two types of rationing coupons, and they were doled out in blue stamps (48 points) , and red stamps (64 points). You can see how you might spend your points by visiting the chart linked below. As you will find, one couldn't buy much with their stamps. Also, despite lingering fears of hunger from the Great Depression, the hoarding of food was strongly discouraged. Therefore, 20 million Americans turned to victory gardens to supplement their food sources.
Approximately 40% of the nation's produce supply came from victory gardens. Additionally, 4.1 billion jars of food were preserved during the war. One was provided additional sugar for the purpose of preservation. One can imagine that the process of growing a victory garden, and producing some food gave you a measure of control over the war effort. Having gardening as a controllable factor in my life- that's something I can relate to. I'll be reminded of this post this summer when I hear the lids of my canned jars popping, or I uproot my first radishes.