Food is Ammunition

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“Herbert Hoover of the Food Administration visits Boston,” July 1921. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection via Digital Commonwealth.

Herbert Hoover, head of the US Food Administration during World War I, famously declared, “Food will win the war.” Both he and the United States government more generally encouraged Americans at home to decrease their consumption of food and to focus on the production of more foodstuffs at home for soldiers abroad.

With the conflict firing on foreign shores, the United States remained able to produce goods at home, suffering no direct combat interruption. The goods it produced would serve as a source of food to those Allied nations where the battle overran production areas like farms and manufacturing plants. In 1918, the rate of United States food exportationmainly of bread, sugar, and meatincreased three-fold from the amount of exportation prior to the war.

Propaganda posters sang of food as “ammunition,” a commodity that Americans could employ as their own weaponry. By rationing their consumption and increasing food production for Allies in need, Americans on the home front could join the fight.