Don't Waste It

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"Save the products of the land. Eat more fish -- they feed themselves," 1918. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth.

Herbert Hoover’s colorful campaign to save food was directed primarily at housewives. He suggested catchy traditions such as “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays” to encourage those on the home front to be mindful of limiting their food consumption during the war.

Government nutritionists provided housewives with sample menus that offered suggestions about how to cook with less wheat, meat, and dairykey commodities during the conflict. Seafood was encouraged as a suitable replacement because “fish... feed themselves.”

Established in 1917, the Woman’s Land Army of America (WLAA) was inspired by Britain’s Women's Land Army or “Land Lassies.” The WLAA recruited more than 20,000 urban women to work on farms and help increase food production during the conflict.

Well before the war, poor families in the United States were accustomed to “rationing” and not wasting food. For this reason, Hoover’s movement did not target them as actively as it did middle- and upper-class households. To make matters worse for impoverished families, labor rules and regulations were relaxed at home during the war, allowing companies to demand longer and harder hours on the job in factories.