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8 Ways to Ration
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World War II was a total war, meaning that the entire country had to mobilize to stop the Axis threat. An American military that numbered only 630,000 in 1939 had to fill its ranks quickly. This meant that production of weapons, uniforms, and food had to increase to equip, train, and feed the growing military. As soldiers arrived overseas, they were dependent upon shipments from back home to keep them supplied. In order for the soldiers to remain well supplied, those on the home front had to conserve what they could.

Food, fuel, and many household items were in short supply for a variety of reasons: much of the processed and canned foods was reserved for shipping overseas to our military and our Allies; transportation of fresh foods was limited due to gasoline and tire rationing and the priority of transporting soldiers and war supplies instead of food; imported foods, like coffee and sugar, were limited due to restrictions on importing.

Because of these shortages, the U.S. government’s Office of Price Administration established a system of rationing that would more fairly distribute foods that were in short supply. Every American was issued a series of ration books during the war. The ration books contained removable stamps good for certain rationed items, like sugar, meat, cooking oil, and canned goods. A person could not buy a rationed item without also giving the grocer the right ration stamp. Once a person’s ration stamps were used up for a month, she couldn’t buy any more of that type of food. This meant planning meals carefully, being creative with menus, and not wasting food. More than 8,000 ration boards across the country administered the program. In addition to the ration stamps, American citizens were encouraged to conserve when possible while avoiding and reporting black markets that sold goods at inflated prices with no ration stamps.

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Secondary Sources

V for Victory: America’s Home Front During World War II by Stan Cohen

Eating for Victory: Food Rationing and the Politics of Domesticity by Amy Bentley

Grandma's Wartime Kitchen: World War II and the Way We Cooked by Joanne Lamb Hayes

"'How About Some Meat?': The Office of Price Administration, Consumption Politics, and State Building from the Bottom Up, 1941-1946," by Meg Jacobs
In Journal of American History, Vol. 84, No. 3 (Dec., 1997)

"The Politics of Sacrifice on the American Home Front in World War II," by Mark H. Leff
In Journal of American History, Vol. 77, No. 4 (March, 1991)

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Student Travel – WWII Educational Tours
High school and college students, learn the leadership principles that helped win WWII on a trip to France or during a weeklong residential program in New Orleans. College credit is available, and space is limited.

See You Next Year! HS Yearbooks from WWII
Collected from across the United States, the words and pictures of these yearbooks present a new opportunity to experience the many challenges, setbacks and triumphs of the war through the eyes of America’s youth.

The Victory Gardens of WWII
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!

The Science and Technology of WWII
Visit our new interactive website to learn about wartime technical and scientific advances that forever changed our world. Incorporates STEM principles to use in the classroom.

Kids Corner: Fun and Games!
Make your own propaganda posters, test your memory, solve puzzles and more! Learn about World War II and have fun at the same time.

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