Rationing of processed foods was an important part of life on the US Home
Front. A complex and constantly changing system kept the grocery shopper on her
Tin was short. The Japanese controlled 70 percent of the world’s tin supply. Tin’s resistance
to temperature, shock, and moisture made it an ideal packaging material. The US
military used tin for ration tins, ammunition boxes, plasma containers, and for
morphine syrettes. The use of tin for civilian purposes had to be curtailed,
which meant rationing of canned goods. (See Make It Do - Metal Shortages in World War II)
Food was in high demand. In
addition to meeting civilian needs, US farms also fed the military and the
Allies. However, an agricultural labor shortage due to the draft and the
internment of Japanese-Americans strained the system. Reducing civilian usage of
processed fruit and vegetable products through rationing helped reduce the
processed foods were rationed?
Starting March 1, 1943,
three hundred items were rationed, including canned or bottled or frozen fruits
and vegetables, canned or bottled juices and soups, and dried fruits. Fresh
fruits and vegetables were not rationed, nor were pickles, relishes, or
Each rationed item was
assigned a point value, which varied over time due to supply, demand, and
region. The job of the grocer became more complicated. Products had to be
labeled not only with price but with point value. Each month, point values
changed, and the grocer had to re-label.
Ration Book Two
On March 1, 1943, War Ration Book Two
became active. The blue stamps provided 48 points worth of processed foods each
month. This supplied 33 pounds of canned goods per person per year, which was 13
pounds less than pre-war usage. Rationing calendars were published in the
newspapers to help people keep track of which stamps were current. Stamps were
good for eight, five, two, or one points each, with no “change” given, so the
shopper had to be careful to use the exact number of points. To prevent fraud,
the stamps had to be torn off in the presence of the grocer.
Ration Books Three and Four
Book Three became active in
September 1943, but was replaced by Book Four on November 1, 1943. The system
was simplified on February 27, 1944, when all stamps became worth 10 points, and
plastic tokens were issued as change.
Point values changed
frequently, and items were often removed from or returned to rationing based on
the harvest. On September 17, 1944 after a good harvest—and in preparation for
the presidential election—all processed foods except canned fruit were removed
from rationing, but were returned to rationing on January 1, 1945 due to the
demands of the Battle of the Bulge. After V-J Day on August 15, 1945, processed
foods were no longer rationed.
People were encouraged to plant Victory Gardens to reduce the amount of processed foods needed. Newspapers and magazines
published how-to articles, and gardens sprang up in backyards, vacant lots,
big-city window-boxes, and even on community property. By the end of 1943,
Victory Gardens supplied 40 percent of civilian needs for fruits and
To put up this bounty,
home canning was encouraged. A poll in January 1944 found that 75 percent of
housewives canned, and those women canned an average of 165 jars per year. This
met the family’s needs and preserved ration points for foods they couldn’t grow.
Extra canned fruits and vegetables were often donated to the needy.
How would you like to deal with a system like
Labels: canned goods, rationing, rationing in World War II, World War II