The United States Food Administration (USFA) was created in 1917 in attempt to convince Americans to voluntarily change their eating habits in order to have enough food to feed the military and relieve famine in Europe. American civilians were encouraged to ration their food in the “Food Will Win the War” campaign housed by the USFA in order to show compliance and support of the American effort in World War I, which the U.S. became involved in from 1917-1918. (1)
In the two years of United States involvement in the war, food conservation was an important topic for North Carolinians. One thousand people attended the Farmers’ and Farm Women’s Convention held at NC State in August of 1917, which promoted growing “as much as you can” to boost food production. Those who did not farm were encouraged to reduce food consumption and waste. (3)
We can infer that those in Chapel Hill would also be advised to cut down on waste and grow more crops. The winter of 1918 edition of “The Training School Quarterly,” is a manual on how to practice these efforts during the war. The document comes from the East Carolina Teachers Training School, a school created in 1907 and located in Greenville N.C. that was later turned into Eastern Carolina University. (2)
The document describes the ways that manager of the Dining Hall, Nannie F. Jeter, went about practicing the habits that the USFA urged the public to do. She writes that the trash can is checked everyday for any items that are not eggshells, potato skins, boiled bones, coffee grounds, tea leaves, orange skins, and the roots and outside leaves of cabbage and collards. Since sugar was a scarce resource during this time, she uses molasses and apples to make a sugar syrup. She said that “every ounce of fat is saved” and even bread crumbs serve a purpose in the kitchen. (1)
These documents show the impact World War I had on facilities like schools, but also how recipes can change inside homes in times of conversation. Jeter changed a fruit cake recipe she had from 1890 to adapt to the USFA recommendations. From the document, we can see she substitute butter for lard, sugar for molasses, and brandy for a combination of other flavors.
Meals must be adjusted entirely. She acknowledges that meat supply is so low that it is no longer the “foundation of the fare.” We can look to this document to make inferences about how regular life changed for citizens during the war. Meals, habits, and lifestyles had to be adjusted according to what was available. Jeter understands the importance of food conversation and it appears in her first person account that she takes it very seriously.
1. U.S. National Archives. “The U.S. Food Administration, Women, and the Great War: The Pennsylvania Food Conservation Train – Google Arts & Culture.” The U.S. Food Administration, Women, and the Great War: The Pennsylvania Food Conservation Train. Accessed November 08, 2018. https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/ogKSCGsEff-WIg.
2. Martin, Jonathan. “East Carolina Unversity.” History of the College of Education. Accessed November 08, 2018. http://www.ecu.edu/cs-educ/COE_History.cfm.
3. Trenholm, Sandra. “The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.” Historical Context: The Global Effect of World War I | Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Accessed November 09, 2018. https://www.gilderlehrman.org/content/food-conservation-during-wwi-food-will-win-war.