Dig for Victory
Rationing of food during the Second World War on the home front hit hard, especially in the areas of meat, sugar, fats, and wheat. The need to provide food with extended shelf life to the troops overseas, and to America’s allies, hit these areas hardest because they could last longer and remain consumable.
Americans were urged to alter their diets to replace the lost caloric intake from the rationed foods with fresh fruits and vegetables. In order to increase the supply of these items, Americans were urged to plant Victory Gardens, providing vegetables and some fruits for personal consumption. Victory Gardens also helped ease the pain of gasoline rationing, as foods grown at home did not require trips to the market to obtain them.
The United States Department of Agriculture strongly encouraged the planting of Victory Gardens, and Eleanor Roosevelt set an example by planting one on the White House lawn. In congested urban areas where open land was at a premium, public parks set aside plots of ground for the use of citizens to grow their own vegetables. The joys of growing one’s own food were exhorted by the government as both a healthful and patriotic activity. Easing the pressure on the food supply at home helped increase morale within the civilian community and provided many with more healthful diets than they had enjoyed previously.
By 1944 the amount of food produced by Victory Gardens in the United States exceeded the commercial production of fruits and vegetables. The US government touted the money being saved on the production of fruits and vegetables for home consumption as being used in other areas of military support.
More than 18,000,000 Victory Gardens fed the home front, inspired by both detailed guidelines published by the Department of Agriculture (and major food producers such as Beech-Nut) and solid reminders in the form of posters which proclaimed the advantages of growing and preserving one’s own food.