Philip Mohr, curator
I’m keeping a community garden plot this year just to have some home-grown vegetables for me and mine. I remember helping my grandpa tend a vegetable garden on his acre in suburban St. Louis. He grew up on a farm in southeast Missouri, a little too young to be drafted into the service for World War II. His mother kept a vegetable garden just as a matter of fact on a farm. The concept of a victory garden was unnecessary for them. In the suburbs, however, it was different.
Victory gardens played a role in feeding the United States during World War II. While they did not fulfill every kitchen need, they supplemented many households enough to reduce the effects of wartime rationing. Growing fruit and vegetables was only one part of being thrifty in those years. In fact, all kinds of guides on how to run an efficient wartime household came out.
“Wartime Canning” helped gardeners can some of the food they grew in order to stretch their produce through the winter. This guide, and others like it, really do not offer unique information about canning, thrifty shopping, or stretching your food dollar. However, it was more necessary for most people to pay attention to these guidebooks under war rationing.
The guidebooks played numerous roles. One, they helped people survive well under rationing. Two, they served as a means for the food industry to be involved in the total war effort. Three, they advertised companies and associations that published and distributed them. For example, the American Meat Institute published “32 Tested Meat Recipes for Thrifty Meals” and “Meat Buying Guide for Thrifty Meals” in 1942. As representatives of meat and poultry growers, they tried to show people how they could continue to buy meat through lean financial years.
If you remember tending a victory garden and have a story to share with our community, please contact the History Center. firstname.lastname@example.org 847-391-5399