Wednesday, March 3, 2010

3 March 1918: "Such Foodstuffs As Food Law Permits" during WWI

On this day in 1918, the Athens Banner published a list of acceptable wheat flour substitutes "in order that there not be any misunderstanding in the part of the merchants and buyers."

The list ranged from such recognizable items as bran, corn meal, hominy, rolled oats, buckwheat flour, and oatmeal to cotton seed flour, feterita meal, kaffir flour, milo, cassava flour, and banana flour. Rye and graham flour could not be substituted for wheat flour purchases.

When the United States entered WWI in 1917, Europe had already been at war for three years and was desperate for food. Work by agencies such as the Committee for Relief in Belgium, organized and headed by Herbert Hoover, had been feeding civilians in Allied nations for years, but now the U. S. needed well-fed, strong armies as well. President Woodrow Wilson created the U. S. Food Administration, and asked Hoover to run the temporary department.

Hoover accepted no salary for his work, and set about creating a public relations campaign that made conserving food, especially meat and wheat, and growing one's own food, patriotic duty of all Americans. Slogans such as "Food is Ammunition--Don't Waste It!" and "American Wheat to Win!" were taken to heart. Commercially produced breads could not contain more than 50% wheat, and limitations were made on wheat flour to citizens, who were encouraged to sign a pledge to conserve food, and to substitute foods, such as corn in place of flour, whenever possible. By September, 1918, commercially produced breads and mixes could be 80% wheat.

Georgia State College of Agriculture President Andrew Soule was the federal food administrator for Georgia and chairman of food administration for five southeastern states. He was frustrated by the lack of nutritionists available to work with the public during this time, and took this opportunity to push for the University of Georgia to start allowing female undergraduate students. Nutritionist was an acceptable job for women, and along with working with the extension services, Soule made the case that allowing women to be educated for these much-needed professions was "another form of conservation." By September, 1918, Soule had set up a Department of Home Economics and the University was now officially a co-educational institution.

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