Visit the Classroom Victory Garden Project website to learn about food production during WWII, find lesson plans and activities for elementary students, get tips for starting your own garden and try out simple Victory Garden recipes!
Visit our new interactive website to learn about wartime technical and scientific advances that forever changed our world.
Turn your students into history detectives as they ponder over the origins and uses of these intriguing pieces of WWII history.
The National WWII Museum asks…
How Can Your Community Achieve Victory?
The Victory over Poverty by Children with a Small Plot of Land
Foothill Technology High School
When someone normally thinks of victory, he or she thinks of a vanquished foe under the boot of the victor. However, this nation needs just as much, if not more, of a victory over hunger. In the past, Americans were so focused on being victorious in the wars abroad that they forgot about the deadly wars of hunger and poverty at home, and that it is just as important, if not more imperative, to be victorious at home as it is to be in a foreign war. If the war is lost against hunger on America’s doorstep, then how can the United States be victorious on the world stage? Any victory achieved elsewhere will seem muted if hunger gains the upper hand at home. It is not unheard of for a nation to be victorious on the field of battle only to fall to internal forces on the home front.
A study done in 2007 by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty states that 3.5 million people, 1.35 million of them children, are likely to experience poverty in America in a given year. If the U.S. economy continues to decline, this number will increase. Local charities simply cannot feed those in need without the support of the community and the government. Back in 1978, a lady named Jewel Pedi started a wonderful program in Ventura County, California called Foodshare to combat hunger at home. Today Foodshare provides food to 38,000 people each month. Over 750 Foodshare volunteers glean those edible fruits and vegetables harvested on commercial farms considered not large enough or attractive enough to sell commercially, in order to feed the homeless and the needy.
However, the gleaning of fields, an idea drawn from Biblical times, has changed dramatically in recent years. In Ventura County today, much less unused food is being gathered from the fields. Many farmers here grow strawberries and raspberries now, and often every one of those berries is used in one way or another. Ventura County is blessed with some of the most productive agricultural land in the state. Just about anything will grow here, given a little water. Yet, because commercial farmers are developing more efficient farming methods, my community must come up with new ways to feed those who need assistance.
This is where the idea of Victory Gardens comes in. By 1944, when the United States was in the mist of canned food rations, the Department of Agriculture effected a poster campaign, “Grow More in 44”. This campaign encouraged the planting of Victory Gardens in every place possible including backyards, apartment building rooftops, and empty lots. Government posters with slogans like “Plant a Victory Garden. Our Food is Fighting.” appeared in post offices and train stations. The Department of Agriculture and agricultural companies like Beech-Nut and International Harvester released public service booklets explaining how to establish and care for a Victory Garden. By the spring of 1944, over twenty million Americans had planted Victory Gardens, producing nearly 40% of the vegetables consumed by our nation that year. One would think that such a successful idea would still be utilized today; but sadly, most of the Victory Gardens are gone now. The only public Victory Gardens remaining are the Fenway Victory Gardens in the Back Bay Fens of Boston.
Americans need to revisit the past and bring back Victory Gardens. With the advent of more efficient farming methods and tighter quality controls in the commercial food industry, local food banks are struggling to provide food for their clients. Last fall, Ventura County’s food banks ran short of food staples, and several newspaper articles pleaded for help. As in World War II, when school children organized scrap metal drives, children could achieve victory once more by mobilizing to plant Victory Gardens. I remember that when I was a little kid growing up, my family grew a backyard garden for many years. It was broken up into four different plots, one for my mother, one for my sister, one for my father, and one for me, and we could plant whatever kind of vegetable we wanted to in our sections. I would always grow carrots, and they were the sweetest ones I have ever tasted. My mother would always grow broccoli, and no matter what I did to it, there would always be broccoli on the dinner table. My sister and I used to love to play in our garden, and when everything was picked, I would flood it and play in the mud with my boats of sticks. Without my family’s full awareness, the Victory Garden concept touched our lives.
It is time once more for school children to start a victory campaign and stomp out hunger in America by planting Victory Gardens in their hometowns. Each school in Ventura could dedicate a far corner of its playground to this noble cause. The classes could hold competitions throughout the growing season to see which one could feed the most families. This nation needs Victory Gardens to connect Americans back with our roots. We need to remember that our nation started out as a country of farmers who raised up arms against the most powerful nation in the world, and rose out of the dust of the fields as the United States of America.