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Each week on the Junior Curators blog, we travel back in time to a different place in Tennessee history. Stories may be about a famous person, place or event from Tennessee’s past. They will include things like priceless artifacts, pictures, videos, and even some games. Be sure to better understand the story by answering the questions at the end of each post.
After learning the story, be sure to share what you've learned with your parents, family, or friends. Try making your own exhibit about it, shooting a movie, or writing a story about it. Let your creativity run wild!
by Jennifer Watts
Have you ever asked your parents, “What’s for dinner?” I know I have. During World War II, making a healthy, delicious meal was difficult. A lot of the food grown by the United States was needed to feed soldiers fighting overseas. Not much was left for the people at home. So what did the people on the home front do? The answer was simple and something we can still do today. Grow your own food! Victory gardens, were an easy solution.
Your War Garden booklet, 1945
Since farmers could not grow enough food for everyone, the United States government started rationing. Things like sugar, meat, and milk were hard to find. For everyone to get what they needed, the government began giving everyone booklets with stamps in them. These stamps were like coupons that let people buy a little bit of what they wanted. They could not buy it all, only a portion. It’s like if you wanted a pizza but you could not have the whole pizza. Instead, you had a ration coupon that gave you permission to get only one slice. You still got pizza, but only a portion.
The first War Ration Book was issued in May 1942. When you went to a store you had to pay with money AND your ration coupon. The coupon was proof that you had approval to get your portion.
War Ration Book, 1942
Because of rationing, many people in Tennessee started growing their own food. Even kids grew their own gardens. They would grow vegetables like lettuce, beans, and squash. They planted gardens in their yards, on rooftops, or in public parks. Many magazines wrote about how to grow a victory garden. There were an estimated 20 million gardens in America that were growing 40% of the country’s food, during the war. Even the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had a victory garden at the White House.
Victory Cook Book, 1943
Sacrificing was one way families could help during the war. Families often had to come up with alternative ingredients. Cookbooks gave people ideas for substitutes for things like sugar and meat. For example, maple syrup was used in place of sugar in many cake and cookie recipes.
By using what they had and growing their own food, Tennesseans could still enjoy delicious and healthy meals during the war. Their hard work meant more food grown by farmers would go to the soldiers. These soldiers were their husbands, fathers, and sons fighting overseas. Growing a victory garden is not just for wartime! Anyone can grow their own food. It can be a fun way for a family to get together and help put food on the table.
Home front - life for the people not fighting overseas; the people left “at home” during wartime.
Victory/war garden - a vegetable garden, especially a home garden, planted to increase food production during wartime.
Rationing - limiting the amount of a good a single person can buy.
Estimate - to give a general idea of the value of something, size or cost.
Sacrificing - to give up something for the sake of someone or something else.
Alternative - offering or expressing a choice.
Substitute - a person or thing that takes the place of another.
Why were the gardens called “victory gardens”?
What did the U.S. government do to add to the nation’s food supply?
Where did people plant victory gardens?
What are other ways people could help on the home front during wartime?
Make your own Orange Drop sugarless cookies at home.
2 Tbsps. grated orange rind
1/2 cup fat (could be shortening, lard, butter or oil)
1 cup maple syrup
2 beaten eggs
2 cups sifted flour
3 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Mix together the orange rind, fat, and maple syrup. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt, then add to the syrup mixture and fold in beaten eggs. Drop the batter in a teaspoonful on a baking sheet, repeat until all the batter is used and bake at 375 to 400 °F for about 10 minutes.
5.20 Examine the reasons for the use of propaganda, rationing, and victory gardens during World War II.
Jennifer Watts is an Educator at the Tennessee State Museum