Educator Resources

The Mississippi Home Front in World War I: Conserving Food for the War Effort

Conserving Food for the War Effort

Background:

By the time the United States entered World War I, the European powers had been fighting and dying for nearly three years. War had devastated not only lives but also farmland. America was not only expected to fight but also feed war-torn Europe. To do so, Congress established the U.S. Food Administration and President Woodrow Wilson appointed Herbert Hoover to head the new agency.

Hoover and the Food Administration ran a positive propaganda campaign to convince Americans to conserve food. With programs such as “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays,” the American public consumed other, less essential foods so their military and the people of Europe would have enough to eat. With the belief that “food will win the war,” Herbert Hoover succeeded in dramatically increasing food shipments overseas without implementing food rationing or creating unmanageable food shortages at home. With this success, the American people held Hoover in high esteem as a great humanitarian. Ironically, within the span of a decade, this success would be forgotten and he would be blamed for the calamity of the Great Depression.

Mississippi, like the other states, met the challenge to conserve food for the war effort. Many of these documents address some of the unique situations faced by Mississippians such as the decision to grow foodstuffs instead of cotton. The cards referred to in some of the letters were signed promises by average citizens to conserve food. One letter, written by the President of Tougaloo College, expresses that school’s involvement in the conservation effort and its desire to do more.

Documents

Refer to Caption Letters to and from the U.S. Food Administration concerning Mississippi (9 pages)
Refer to Caption Food will win the war. You came here seeking Freedom. You must now help to preserve it. WHEAT is needed for the allies . Waste nothing. , ca. 1917 - ca. 1917 National Archives Identifier 512499 / Local Identifier 4-P-60
Refer to Caption Food will Win the War, Herbert Hoover. But there is another Vital Necessity. The Conservation of Food... , ca. 1917 - ca. 1919 National Archives Identifier 512506 / Local Identifier 4-P-67
Refer to Caption Be Patriotic sign your country s pledge to save the food. , ca. 1917 - ca. 1919 National Archives Identifier 512548 / Local Identifier 4-P-109
   
Refer to Caption Keep It Coming. We must not only feed our Soldiers at the front but the millions of women and children behind our lines. Waste Nothing. , Gen. John J. Pershing, ca. 1918 - ca. 1918 National Archives Identifier 512443 / Local Identifier 4-P-4

Guiding Questions

Letter of November 3, 1917

  • From this letter, what is the purpose of the U.S. Food Administration?
  • How does this letter suggest that this purpose will be met?

Letter of November 14, 1917

  • How is cotton partially a food crop?
  • What do you think it means that farmers “are looking for places?”
  • What does the writer mean when he is wondering whether the banks will be "patriotic" or not?
Letter from Tougaloo College
  • What does the letter mean "to practice all possible food economy?"
  • Why would it be important to instill food economy in the students?
Letter of October 10, 1917
  • What specific things is the Bogue Chitto Merchant representative to do for the U.S. Food Administration?
Letter of December 6, 1917
  • What are many restaurants and eating houses observing?
  • What does this letter say is the key to winning the war?
Letter of November 19, 1917
  • Who is Herbert Hoover? Have you ever heard that name before? If so, what do you know about him?
  • What does Mr. Hoover say is going on in the name of the U.S. Food Administration?
Letter of Lincoln, Nebraska, October 22, 1917
  • What do you think the great reunion at Vicksburg was commemorating?
  • What went on at the reunion that angered the writer?
General Questions
  • What problems could we solve in America if we practiced “food economy” today?
  • What problems could we solve in world?
  • Thought of very highly after his success with the U.S. Food Administration and its feeding of Europe during and immediately after World War I, Herbert Hoover, within a span fifteen years, would be blamed for hunger and poverty in America.. Why? What happened to change the American people’s opinion of him?

If a teacher finds unique and effective ways to use these documents in their classroom and would like to share them with other teachers, please contact joel.walker@nara.gov.

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