What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?

Some of us might like to reinstate this food guide from World War II because butter has its own food group. (National Archives, Records of the Office of Government Reports)

Food. We love it, fear it, and obsess about it.

We demand that our Government ensure that it is safe, cheap, and abundant. In response, Government has been a factor in the production, regulation, research, innovation, and economics of our food supply. It has also attempted, with varying success, to change the eating habits of Americans.

From the farm to the dinner table, explore the records of the National Archives that trace the Government’s effect on what Americans eat.

Home economists helped standardize a meat, potato, and vegetable as the typical American meal. It was easier to calculate the nutritional value of simple ingredients. (National Archives, Records of the Extension Service)

This inventive store display ca. 1917 -18 promotes the potato as a “good soldier” and recommends people eat it “uniform and all.” (National Archives, Records of the United States Food Administration)

The Doughnut Corporation sought endorsement from the Nutrition Division of the War Food Administration for its Vitamin Doughnuts campaign. (National Archives, Records of the Agricultural Marketing Service)

World War II poster, ca. 1942. (National Archives, Records of the Office of Government Reports)

During World War I, the Food Administration under Herbert Hoover promoted “Meatless Mondays.” This poster suggests cottage cheese as a protein substitute. (National Archives, Records of the United States Food Administration)

With canned goods in short supply during World Wars I and II, people ate more fresh fruit and vegetables—many from their own back yards. (National Archives, Records of the United States Food Administration)

Point Rationing was so easy, even young children could do it—or so this 1943 photograph suggests. (National Archives, Records of the United States Food Administration)

Packeting floor of the Seed Distribution Building located in Washington, DC, 1905. (National Archives, Records of the Bureau of Plant Industry, Soils, and Agricultural Engineering)

“The Pig Cafeteria” was one of many exhibits created to educate farmers. (National Archives, Records of the Secretary of Agriculture)

Beginning in 1926, farmers could tune in to USDA weather forecasts, market reports, and programs like The United States Radio Farm School and Farm Flashes. (National Archives, Records of the Extension Service)

These stylish ladies demonstrated what $1.34 bought in 1918 and 1945, thanks to the Office of Price Control. (National Archives, Records of the Office of Price Adminsitration)

World War II poster, 1942 (National Archives, Records of the Secretary of Agriculture)

Many urbanites held on to the agrarian myth—the belief that the family farm stood for all that is pure and good in America—but demanded the cheap food that large agribusiness could supply. (National Archives, Records of the United States Information Agency)

Before the Pure Food and Drugs Act, factory conditions were horrific. This candy factory probably cleaned up its act for inspection in 1908. (National Archives, Records of the Food and Drug Administration)

Industrial age ketchup was often made from fermented tomato cores and skins, vinegar for flavor, and dyes to make it red. (National Archives, Records of the Food and Drug Administration)

British postcards circulated in South Africa around the time Upton Sinclair published The Jungle. (National Archives, General Records of Department of State)

FDA inspectors seizing crates of contaminated frozen eggs. (National Archives, Records of the Food and Drug Administration)

World War II era nutritionists encouraged military chefs to preserve vitamins in vegetables. (National Archives, Records of the Office of Government Reports)

Lunch hour at the Raphael Weill Public School, San Francisco, California, 1942 (National Archives, Records of the War Relocation Authority)

In 1943 the War Food Administration, which produced this poster in 1944, took over—and dramatically expanded—the federal school lunch program. (National Archives, Records of the Office of Government Reports)

School lunch recipes from 1946, the year the school lunch became a permanent, nationwide program. (National Archives, Records of the Agricultural Research Service)

Nixon’s last meal at the White House, 1974 (National Archives, Richard Nixon Library)

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