Hoover Takes Control of Food Production

Food and Fuel Control Act Passes Into Law

The Lever Act granted broad powers to the President of the United States to regulate the production and pricing of food within the country.  Passed in August 1917, the bill was a response to a worldwide shortage of food and grain; European farm laborers had joined the fighting and many crops had been destroyed.  Spring of 1917 found the U.S. -- and the world -- facing critical food shortages, just as the U.S. entered the war.

Herbert Hoover, former head of the Belgian Relief Organization, became administrator of the U.S. Food Administration agency.  Hoover took no salary, believing it would give him the moral authority needed to ask Americans to sacrifice to support the war effort.  As he later wrote in his memoirs, his job was to ask people to "Go back to simple food, simple clothes, simple pleasures.  Pray hard, work hard, sleep hard and play hard.  Do it all courageously and cheerfully."

Hoover became a "food dictator," with the power to regulate the distribution, export, import, purchase, and storage of food.  Hoover wished to appeal to Americans' spirit of volunteerism, caling for patriotism and sacrifices that would increase fod production and decrease food consumption.  "Food," Hoover and the administration announced, "will win the war."

Librarian Edith Guerrier Spearheads Exhibition

On April 18, 1918, Herbert Hoover delivered a stirring speech at the Pittsburgh Press Club.  "Food Control - A War Measure" laid out a multi-faceted approach to the "feeding of our own people and those of the allies, and thereby the maintenance of the strength of all the men, women, and children both there and here, and thus the strong arm of our soldiers."  The measures undertaken to do that included saving wheat, meat, and other commodities that could be of use overseas; increasing farm production by breaking new ground; and growing school gardens.

Edith Guerrier was a librarian in the Education Division of the U.S. Food Administration.  After receiving many requests from across the country for exhibits related to the Pittsburgh speech, she requested $1000 from Mr. Hoover to supply canvas and supplies to a number of artists, that they might illustrate the tenets of Hoover's plan.  These paintings were grouped into five major exhibits that traveled to thirty state fairs and were viewed by eight million Americans during the summer of 1918.

"Food Control—A War Measure"

Win the War in the Kitchen
In 1917, when the Americans joined the conflict, President Wilson created the United States Food Administration, headed by Herbert Hoover. The recipes below are taken from the 1918 Food Adminstration official cookbook, Win the War in the Kitchen, which became the rallying cry for families across the country—including our own here in Nebraska. The cookbook explained, “Waste in your kitchen means starvation in some other kitchen across the sea.”

Women of America, awake! We have a definite part to play in this, the greatest tragedy in the world's history. We need not form ourselves into BATTALIONS of death, but into BATTALIONS of life. Save food and we save life!

We are unwilling to believe that the women of America are slackers, in other words, traitors to our beloved country and its beautiful emblem, within whose folds are wrapped all that makes existence worth while. A woman, if there be such, who says, "I will not use corn in place of wheat," who says, "I will not save 1 teaspoonful of sugar each day," who says, "I will eat beef, mutton and pork daily," is as truly a traitor to her country as was Benedict Arnold or Aaron Burr.

The object of this War Cook Book is to place within one cover all that which has been printed in manifold forms of the best thought of those capable of telling us how to use intelligently the substitutes which our Government has asked us to use.

Ours is the splendid burden of feeding the world. It can be done in but one way: The way of voluntary and larger resolution and action of the whole people in every shop and every kitchen and at every table in the land.

At the U.S.'s entry into the war, Americans were concerned over food scarcity. Food riots occurred in several cities during the winter of 1917. In a speech to the nation in April, President Woodrow Wilson emphasized agriculture's importance. "Upon the farmers of this country, therefore, in large measure rests the fate of the war and the fate of nations," he acknowledged. "The time is short. It is of the most imperative importance that everything possible be done, and done immediately, to make sure of large harvest." 

Unfortunately America's first draft soon meant that the farm labor the President deemed so crucial would now be sent overseas. 

Hilda Loines and Mary Hamilton established the Women's Land Army in response to the need for agricultural labor. "All over America today suffragists are leading a back to the land movement in response to the nation's call for greater production of foodstuffs...they have put their hand to the plow and are not turning back," wrote the Woman's Journal.

Hoover Takes Control of Food Production