What’s Cooking Wednesday: Pull out that sweet tooth!

This poster, created by the U.S. Food Administration, reminded citizens that their consumption of sugar drew resources away from the war (ARC 512526, ca. 1917-ca. 1919).

To celebrate our new exhibit “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” we are featuring a food-related blog post every Wednesday. Today’s post comes to us from the National Archives at New York City.

“Do you know that the money spent in the United States for candy in one year is double the amount required to feed Belgium for one year?” This statement is not from a modern anti-obesity polemic, but rather from the World War I pamphlet A Sugar Program: Household Conservation Policy to Meet the Sugar Situation for the Summer of 1918.

Why was there a sugar situation? When the United States entered World War I, ships were needed to transport soldiers and supplies across the ocean. Since much of the U.S. supply of sugar was imported, the war interrupted the supply chain of sugar.

Ships crossing over to the United Kingdom with supplies also faced the dreaded German U-boats, which sank large numbers of the Allied merchant fleet when Germany declared unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917. This danger threatened to worsen the Allied food situation in Europe, which was already severe. The woman in the poster above is literally draining away resources that the Allies need to win the war.

To inform U.S. citizens on why they were being asked to ration sugar (2 pounds per month or 6 teaspoons per day) and to provide them with information on how to manage without sugar, the United States Food Administration (USFA) created and distributed these pamphlets.

This USFA pamphlet was printed during World War I to explain to families that “sugar supplies [were] short, owing to submarine sinkings” and that “the success of [the] program rest[ed] on the honor and cooperation” of all Americans.

Providing both practical information for substitutions (e.g., “In place of 1 cup of sugar, use 1 cup of honey [but] reduce the original amount of liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup”) and strong words to discourage overuse of resources (e.g., “We need only enough sugar to make our meals palatable”), this pamphlet exemplifies the work of the USFA.

Established during World War I by President Woodrow Wilson and headed by future President Herbert Hoover, the USFA regulated the supply, distribution, and conservation of food. With “Food Will Win the War” as one of its mottos and the goal of feeding the Allied troops and nations, the USFA’s efforts led to a significant increase in the export of food.

Could you go without sugar and make one of the recipes below?

Page one from Sweets without Sugar, Pamphlet of the U.S. Food Administration, General Reports of the Bureau of Conservation Record Group 4: Records of the U.S. Food Administration, 1917-1920.

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