Food production in the United States in 1943 was approximately 32 percent larger than the annual production from 1935-39, the years preceding World War II. Despite labor shortages, inadequate amounts of new machinery and scarcities of other kinds, both farmers and ordinary citizens put forth effort to produce the food needed to meet the country’s need.
Leading this effort at motivating citizens and increasing yields in Illinois was the Cooperative Extension Work in the College of Agriculture. With the support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Cooperative Extension Work in Agriculture and Home Economics, the University produced War Leaders’ Letter, a monthly newsletter for “30,000 leaders in the wartime educational program” that stressed food production as good citizenship. Article topics included farming outlooks, government predictions for wartime needs, production conservation practices, victory gardens, gardening tips, foraging seeds, canning, and other tips for food conservation.
Despite the fact that farmers in 1943 broke food production records, the College of Agriculture exhorted the public to waste not, want not:
“Our fasted, cheapest reservoir of extra food has not yet been tapped. From 20 to 30 per cent of our country’s food supply is now lost between the harvest and the garbage pail because of sheer waste…Most of the waste in home-kitchens occurs not in pound and bushel lots, but in bits and driblets of edible food considered ‘too small to count’ but when multiplied by 34 million home-kitchens add up to an enormous amount.” Suggestions included eating potato jackets rather than disposing of peelings and saving bread leftovers for stuffing.
The emphasis on personal sacrifice and community cooperation for supporting the war effort occurred through not only newsletters, but leaflets, fliers, and pamphlets distributed to the public through the end of the war.
“More Food With Less Labor,” Extension Service in Agriculture and Home Economics, University of Illinois (1943), Record Series 8/3/896, University Archives.
War Leaders’ Letter, September-October 1, 1943, University of Illinois College of Agriculture, Record Series 8/3/896, University Archives.
War Leaders’ Letter, December, 1943-January, 1944, University of Illinois College of Agriculture, Record Series 8/3/896, University Archives.