Shortly after the United States declared war in April 1917, citizens realized in addition to the necessary rations of U. S. soldiers, there existed the starvation of civilians throughout Europe. The government created the U. S. Food Administration to encourage rationing and conserving food. Under the direction of future President Herbert Hoover, the administration instituted a voluntary rationing program that included Meatless Tuesdays and Wheatless Wednesdays. Through the year of war and into 1919, consumption of meat in the United States dropped more than 15 percent. Exports of food to Europe increased significantly.
Locally, the Sherburne County Star News promoted the rationing. Referring to the Meatless Tuesdays and Wheatless Wednesdays, the paper opined, “If these measures are necessary to win the war, let us all munch corn meal and be thankful.” The paper went on to suggest the rationing of bacon. “Bacon is the soldiers’ real food friend,” the paper reported. “He can apparently do more fighting on it than anything else.” Another effort put forth by the newspaper was the publication of alternate recipes and methods to conserve food. The message from the Star News, “don’t be a family of willful wasters.”
Unfortunately, some of the ration programs failed. Early in the effort “heatless Mondays” promoted rationing of coal and other heating products. Weather conditions made this particular program untenable.
Yet, rationing in World War One allowed for significant export of food to the allied countries in Europe. The program marked such success Herbert Hoover received the nickname the “Great Humanitarian.” Programs continued into 1919 to aid the recovery of all of Europe from the first “war to end all wars.” It not only fed the many troops in Europe, it helped stave off starvation amongst a desperate civilian population.