Food Will Win the War
To win the war, the U.S. needed to mobilize its economy as well as its army. A severe food crisis had emerged in Europe during the war, as agricultural workers were recruited into military service and farms were transformed into battlefields. Under the leadership of Herbert Hoover, the U.S. Food Administration aimed to ensure America could produce enough food for its troops as well as feeding Allied troops and civilians in Europe, threatened by famine. Americans responded willingly to these government messages, eager to contribute to the war effort from their own gardens and kitchen tables.
“Women of America” broadside
This broadside called on the women of Fairfield to support the war effort by learning how to plant, can, and preserve food for the winter. The speaker was Mrs. William Glover, who was in charge of Fairfield County’s campaign to increase the wartime food supply.
Fairfield Canning Kitchen and Canning Pledge Cards
Cards like these asked citizens to promise to can and preserve food as part of their contribution to the war effort. The Fairfield Canning Kitchen operated in the Sherman School, canning produce for families who brought in fruits, vegetables, jars, and 8-10 cents per quart.
J. Paul Verrees, Can Vegetables, Fruit, and the Kaiser Too, 1918 (National War Garden Commission)
Defeat the Kaiser and His U-boats, Eat Less Wheat (U.S. Food Administration)
Gift of Alpheus Winter
The Food Administration taught Americans to reduce, substitute, or eliminate foods like wheat, which could then be sent to U.S. soldiers or allies, and to eat larger quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables, which could not as easily be transported. It succeeded in boosting meat production, and ensured high prices for wheat, causing a dramatic increase in production and making the American heartland the breadbasket of France and England.
In Connecticut, this campaign succeeded in increasing the total amount of land under cultivation by 40% in the first year of the war. Wheat production tripled and rye cultivation expanded. Volunteers with the Women's Land Army and the Junior Food Army assisted farmers with their crops, helping to expand the food supply even while male farm workers were serving in the military or working in factories.
James Montgomery Flagg, Sow the Seeds of Victory: Plant and Raise Your Own Vegetables, 1918 (National War Garden Commission)
Americans responded enthusiastically to the idea of creating "war gardens" to raise their own vegetables so that more could be exported overseas, following the example of the White House, with its "victory garden" and sheep munching on the grass in place of the gardeners. Connecticut – which normally imported 80% of its food - aimed to expand the land used for growing food by converting tobacco fields, city parks, golf courses, and front yards into vegetable gardens. Tens of thousands of Connecticut residents raised home gardens in order to contribute to the cause.
Junior Food army placard "Stop! See My Garden" and “We Have a War Garden”
The Junior Food Army, part of Connecticut's efforts to increase the state's food supply during World War I, organized more than 45,000 boys and girls across the state to grow and preserve their own food.