world war 1 garden 1 

Digging to Victory: How Bellingham Conserved Food During World War I 

By Jennifer Crooks
via the WhatcomTalk (WA) web site 

The United States participated in World War I from April 1917 to November 1918. During this time people, rallied to save food for the war effort. One Bellingham woman, Mrs. G. A. Bumstead, was inspired to turn her thoughts into music. The lyrics, to the tune “Marching Through Georgia,” were published by the Bellingham Herald on October 30, 1917:

“We women of America will prove that/we are true./While standing by our colors, the Red,/the White, the Blue./We’ll show our boys in France that we/can fight the battle, too!/While we are standing by Hoover.//Chorus: Hurrah! Hurrah! We’ll help the thing/along./Hurrah! Hurrah! We’ll do it with a song./We’ll bake the bread we ought to bake,/corn bread and muffins, too./While we are standing by Hoover//Corn meal in mush we’ll boil and fry/and spread molasses on./We’ll eat it with good conscience for/’twill help the boys along./Eat it as we used to eat it in the days/now gone./For we are standing by Hoover//Chorus//One day we’ll cook no meat./One day we’ll cook no wheat./We’ll cook the things we ought to cook,/corn cakes and hominy, too./For we are standing by Hoover.”

As Mrs. Bumstead wrote, saving food was a central part of the American homefront during World War I. The need for food was dire for America’s soldiers and allies. The conflict had devastated agriculture in Europe as men marched off to war and fields disappeared under shelling. Submarine warfare disrupted international trade.

To meet the emergency, President Woodrow Wilson formed the United States Food Administration, headed by former mining engineer (and future president) Herbert Hoover. Hoover had impressed many with his capable handling of relief for civilians in German-occupied Belgium. He was the logical choice for the post and, as seen in Bumstead’s song, was the public face of the organization.

The Food Administration labelled their food-saving measures “food conservation.” Few laws were passed regulating consumption and businesses practices, making it a largely voluntary rationing program.

People were encouraged to save limited commodities, especially wheat, meat, sugar, and fats. Through promotion of “wheatless,” “meatless,” and “porkless” days and meals, people were encouraged to use substitutes such as corn and other grains to reduce consumption of limited commodities. They were also encouraged to plant “war gardens” as a way to increase food supplies and reduce strains on food transportation. 

Read the entire article on the WhatcomTalk web site here:


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