By O. K. Davis
[Everybody's Magazine, September 1917]
Men, Munitions, and Food—these three are the imperative necessities for the maintenance of freedom in the free world to-day. And the greatest of these is Food!
These three our Allies call upon the American people to supply to them. These three are the stanchions of righteousness and justice in the struggle with the mightiest foe of liberty the world has ever known. And the greatest of them is Food!
Without our men, without our munitions, it is barely possible that the devotion of British, French, Italian patriotism might still avail to meet the hosts of autocracy, and ultimately wear them down. But without our food that is impossible. The real war problem of the American people is to keep that food supply steadily going forward in the most generous volume our united efforts can secure.
"Food First" is the one personal call of the war that comes literally to every man, .woman, and child in the entire country. It alone reaches absolutely all of us. No other phase of the struggle touches certainly every individual in the nation.
Not all of us can join the fighting forces.
Not all of us can labor in the fields or factories, producing food or military supplies.
Not all of us can serve in Red Cross and other auxiliaries.
Not all of us can help in administrative or financial capacities.
But every last one of us, old and young, rich and poor, big and little, high and low, no matter where we live; or how, no matter what our social or financial condition, no matter what our daily task, can render vital service in meeting the great war food problem which confronts us.
Get the idea of Food First as your war job firmly gripped in your mind, and never let go of it until peace is reestablished. Even then take your full time about giving it up.
Don't you want to win? Don't you think we're going to win? Don't you know we've got to win? Well, then, get down to business and help to win!
President Wilson states America's obligation as, first, to feed ourselves; second, to help feed our Allies; and third, to do what we can to help neutrals when that can be done without also helping our enemies.
This means for us, first, produce more; second, consume less; and third, stop waste.
As to the first, during all the spring period when stimulation of production was possible, every energy of every one connected with the Administration, or interested in the genuine solution of the problem, from President Wilson down, was devoted to urging extended effort upon the part of all producers of foodstuffs, throughout the country, to achieve this year the utmost limit of production.
The answer comes, as this is written, in an official crop estimate giving the total of food crops for this year as probably a billion bushels greater than the aggregate of last year's crops.
And that estimate does not take into account the many millions of home gardens that exist this year in direct response to the appeal of the nation's leaders to all the people to produce all the food possible.
But although we are—on the present showing—producing so much more than last year, there is more than a little danger that this is crowing before we are out of the woods. Of that extra billion bushels—estimated—it is noteworthy that more than half is corn, and only about forty million bushels wheat.
But our unfortunate Allies are inexperienced in the delights of "johnny-cake'' and Indian meal. They eat wheat, but they do not eat corn. So to get the full benefit of that extra half billion bushels of corn this year, it is up to us to eat it and to ship the wheat thus released to our Allies.
Moreover, it is to be remembered that this estimate of the corn crop comes when there are yet six weeks or more to go before the corn crop is "made," and in that time weather conditions may occur such as to destroy the whole of that estimated surplus.
At this writing, however, the promise of help from increased production is distinct and fairly generous. It gives all the more encouragement for a steady exhibition of patriotic simplicity and self-control in the execution of the second, and most effective, method of procuring food supplies for our Allies—lessened consumption.
Buy less! Cook less! Eat less! It will do you good. You will save money and lose superfluous fat. The doctors have been telling us for years that we habitually eat too much. We have known all along that we ought to reform, but we never have had an incentive big enough to make us overcome our appetites. Now we've got both the opportunity and the motive.
Hoover tells us that it will require five hundred and forty million bushels of food grains to meet the needs of England, France, Italy, Belgium, and Portugal this year, in addition to what they can produce for themselves. There is no man in the world better equipped with information on this subject than Herbert Hoover.
Canada may be able to supply something like one hundred million bushels, but the great bulk of that half billion and more bushels must come from us. Australia might supply some. Argentina might supply some. But it takes a ship six times as long to go to Australia or Argentina and back as to run across the North Atlantic and back, and the supply of ocean tonnage is not sufficient to stand that strain.
Where are we going to get our part of that half billion bushels to send to our Allies?
Our estimated wheat production is approximately six hundred and eighty million bushels for this year. We need, on the basis of the liberal consumption of previous years, six hundred and forty million bushels for seed, carry-over, and domestic supply. We dare not skimp the seed. We can skimp the carry-over, and it has been done this year, with the result that reserves at this writing are estimated at less than twenty million bushels.
But the estimated surplus of forty million bushels, and what can be obtained by skimping the carry-over, would furnish at the outside considerably less than Canada's hundred million bushels. Where's the rest coming from?
That's just exactly where you, and I, and the other hundred and one million like us come in. We are going to save it.
There is another idea to get very firmly in your head and hold fast there. We can do the trick of saving enough food to give our Allies a fair supply easily if we set ourselves to it.
Don't get to thinking only of the comparatively small amount that you alone, or your family alone, can save at one time, or in one day. What any one of us can save amounts to mighty little taken by itself. But keep steadily in mind the fact that in the aggregate we are a tremendous number and a powerful force.
It is the huge bulk of all of us together that counts. Our united strength is colossal. It is our united effort that will win.
And if anything tempts you to think that the American people will not respond to the urgent need for united saving of food this year, just look out of the car window the first time you take a trip of a hundred miles anywhere in this country. You will see every back yard and many front yards blossoming with potatoes, peas, beans, and other, garden varieties of food.
There are literally millions of gardens in the United States this year that were not here last year. They are war gardens, and nothing else. They are made simply because the people who made them want to do what they can to help win the war. And the loyal people who will make such an effort to produce additional food will make similar effort to save still more food.
Keep the bulk, not the individual saving in mind. Remember that if each one of us saved only one ounce of sugar a day it would mean one million one hundred thousand tons for the year.
If each one of us saved one ounce of meat a day, the aggregate for a year would equal two million two hundred thousand cattle.
Save by Ounces
If it strikes you as any kind of a hardship to get along with an ounce a day less of sugar or meat, just think of what your German enemies have been doing for two and a half years in order to carry on the fight they have been making.
The German allowance of meat when I was in Berlin last winter was a little less than two ounces a day for five days a week; that is, half a pound a week. How many Americans eat half a pound in a single beefsteak, and repeat the performance several times a week?
Butter is one of the most important foods. A liberal user of butter will spread about a third of an ounce on a single slice of bread. A sparing user would make that much spread two slices.
If all the people of the United States were to forego the use of butter on one or two slices of bread a day, the results would be a saving of about three hundred and seventy-five thousand tons of butter a year.
Very few Americans have any real comprehension of what may be accomplished in the way of food conservation by careful forethought and concerted action.
If you were living in Berlin now you would get your daily bread, upon the presentation to the baker, or the restaurant keeper, of some little sections clipped from a bread card across the top of which there would run a legend giving the number of the week since rationing began—now about 130.
That means that for more than two and a half years the German Government has measured out to its people their daily allowance of bread. It means that since the early days of 1915 no bread has been sold legally in Germany except in accordance with the strongest restrictions of the Government.
And so it has been and is with every other essential article of food—meat, potatoes, butter, milk, sugar, cereals—all doled out day by day in scantiest measure, a measure fixed as far as possible by consideration of what constitutes a properly balanced ration, but determined ultimately by the most careful estimate of the total available supply.
This is the principle and the process of German food conservation. And it is due to unflinching procedure upon that principle that Germany is alive to-day, and still able to menace the freedom of the world. When the German Government began the rationing of the German people more than two and a half years ago, there were those in high place among our present Allies who presented that fact to their peoples as evidence that Germany was approaching the stage of starvation. But that rationing was the very means by which the German Government has prevented the starvation of its people.
Are Bread Cards Coming?
We shall not be able in America by voluntary conservation to match the marvelous economies with food obtained by German discipline. But neither shall we reach a stage of necessity anything like that which Germany has been forced for almost three years to endure.
The natural physical conditions of our country furnish such a tremendous and permanent advantage on our side that even if there were to be put in the hands of our Government powers materially more drastic than those exercised in Berlin—if that were possible—it never would become necessary to put them, into use.
They would stand, as it is largely intended the proposed powers carried in the bill pending as this is written shall stand, as a great Economic Policeman, ready for use if the riot starts, but actually putting in his daily hours of watchfulness merely swinging his club, maintaining the peace simply by his adequately prepared presence.
Not so very long ago, before our break with Germany, I sat in the Ministry of Agriculture in Berlin and talked with the Vice-Minister about the preparations of the German Government for the production of food in Germany this year. He spoke of organization, of accumulation of material—fertilizers and seed and machinery. He touched upon the very difficult problem of labor, and spoke of the work the German women were doing in the fields, and of the labor of the hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war. He talked with the intelligent seriousness of a man who comprehended fully the exceptional difficulties of his problem, but he talked also with the enthusiasm of a man who expected confidently to surmount them.
"There shall not be an idle acre in Germany this year," he said. "If we have good weather we shall produce more food than ever before."
He was a disciple of Prussian autocracy. He meant what he said. He knew what he was talking about. He was announcing a definite program, one that had been considered most carefully from every angle and adopted with deliberation and purpose.
Within Imperial Germany there are 77,000,000 acres of agricultural land. The German army is in occupation of foreign territory equal in area to, if not greater than, Imperial Germany. Within this occupied territory there are the fertile fields of Poland, Roumania, and Serbia, to say nothing of those acres of French and Belgian soil which have been accustomed to produce a greater yield per acre than almost any other soil on earth. Of course these acres are not going to receive the careful attention in this summer of 1917 which has evoked from them the record yield of other years. But from the 77,000,000 acres within imperial Germany the German Government is asking a response greater than ever before, and from the fields of the occupied territories it is asking all it can get.
On the theory that Heaven helps those who help themselves, the Germans are entitled to help from Heaven in their crop-raising this year. For every one of the elements that go into successful agriculture which can be controlled by human endeavor, they have sought with German thoroughness and energy to render most efficient for the production of this crop. In every one of these elements—labor, fertilizer, seed, physical efficiency—the awful waste of war has made great inroads. To meet this waste the German Government has done just what it does on the field of battle—it has called up the reserves.
And it has compelled or created reserves, gathering the necessary supply of labor from the military forces at the front, the factories, the shops, the homes, the nurseries, "the cradle and the grave." The call to labor in the fields was paramount. No use to man the trenches if no food was produced to feed the men. Long ago the German Government realized that, in this war, "Food First" was the essence of endurance.
In the very important matter of fertilizers the German Government went patiently to work last fall to accumulate supplies of all obtainable materials in the greatest quantity possible for use this year. A substantial measure of success was secured, especially with potash and nitrates. And it was planned in the distribution of these supplies to consider first those fields which, in previous years, had had least fertilization. By this means, it was believed, an extra spurt would be given to production.
Weather, the element in which there is the smallest degree of human control, is the element of chief importance. Early reports were that Germany has been most fortunate in this respect, but the last news is of drought and blight. Still it must be borne in mind, that even if the purpose of the German Government to produce more food in Germany than ever before is not entirely fulfilled, the harvest may yet be so substantial that fear of collapse from want of food will not greatly torment Germany next winter.
It's Our Job
That puts it squarely up to us. For there isn't any use talking about England feeding herself just yet. Whatever she might learn to do under the stimulus of the German assault, when her deer parks are plowed up and her vast stretches of hitherto unproductive soil have been turned to the business of growing food, it is not now within the bounds of the possible. And after what she has suffered and lost, in territory and in man power, in the last three years, there isn't much more chance of France feeding herself than there is of England.
But the call to us is not only to make up the deficiency in domestic supply for England and France—it is to do so on the expensive plan of first filling the maw of the insatiable German submarine. So more and yet more of the products of our acres we must pour into the ocean in order that still more of them may get past these sea wolves and serve the needs of our Allies who are holding the line until our own fighting strength shall be ready to join the battle.
The Wheat Shortage
Just the other day I sat in the quiet office of the Secretary of Agriculture at Washington and talked over this problem with the man who is tackling the biggest job that has ever developed in that department—Secretary David Franklin Houston himself. Mr. Houston is a quiet man, and he talks in a quiet way, in keeping with the surroundings in his office. He has a keen comprehension of the size of the task confronting the nation, and is serenely confident of the ability of the American people to meet it, if they can only be made to grasp it and to go at it whole-heartedly.
"We are sometimes rather easily excited, as a people," said Mr. Houston, "especially about matters which are not within our individual lines of business concern, and with which as a consequence, we are not familiar. For instance, if anything happens to our supply of wheat and Irish potatoes we are likely to get a little panicky.
"There has been something of that feeling in the country since we entered the war against Germany. We raised more than a billion bushels of wheat two years ago, and last year the crop was only about six hundred and forty million bushels. That is, it was 360,000,000 bushels short of the record crop of 1915—a million bushels of wheat a day less than we had the previous year—approximately 225,000 barrels of flour every day of the year.
"But, that was the shortage as compared with the record, not the average crop. The record crop was more than two hundred million bushels greater than the average crop. The carry-over from that record crop was consequently very much greater than the average carry-over, and even after the exceptionally great exportation of wheat for last year, there was still a good deal left.
"We need, figuring on a liberal basis for human food, for seed and a carry-over of 50,000,000 bushels, about 640,000,000 bushels of wheat a year, and that is just what last year's crop was. That is, there was plenty for our own need estimated on a liberal basis, but not much, except previous surplus, for export.
The most recent estimate for this year's crop is approximately six hundred and eighty million bushels, which, on the liberal basis of our previous use of wheat, would leave as surplus available for shipment to our Allies only about forty million bushels. But we must have several times that quantity to send them, and the only way we can get it is to save it by reducing our own consumption.
"We have not usually exported any considerable portion of our potato crop. The pre-war average export was less than 2,000,000 bushels, and for 1916 it went up only to a little more than 4,000,000 bushels. But our crop for last year was more than 75,000,000 bushels under the average, and as our per capita consumption is approximately three and a half bushels, requiring practically all of the average production to meet domestic demands, the shortage has been very marked for the last few months.
The latest estimate for this year indicates a very greatly increased production, in fact nearly double that of last year.
No Case for Panic
"So we have had conditions that tend to make our people a little panicky. But there is no real cause for panic. There is, however, great cause both for producing all the food we possibly can this year, and for exercising always the most rigid economy in our use of food, in order to save the greatest amount possible for export to our Allies.
"We can produce an almost unlimited amount and variety of food if we really make up our minds to do so. If the American people can be brought to a fixed determination to produce food to anything like the full extent of their capacity and resources, the food question for all the Allies will be settled, let the submarine rage as it may.
"We have, for example, 951,000,000 acres of land suitable for agricultural purposes in the United States. At present about 45 per cent of that acreage is cultivated, but only 12 per cent of that 45 per cent is returning a full yield. The possibility of development is enormous."
In speaking of this possibility Mr. Houston was not referring to the kind of intensive cultivation that has produced such marvelous returns from the soil of Belgium and other European countries. The Secretary of Agriculture doesn't take much stock in the talk about Americans not being good farmers; about the "unproductive acres" of the United States, when the intensive cultivation of Europe, which loads the soil with labor, is the standard of comparison.
"We are still pioneering in agriculture," he said. "Land is cheap, labor is dear. It would be bad economics for us to indulge in intensive cultivation of the kind that scores such great yields per acre in Europe.
"It is not the yield per acre which is the test, but the yield per unit of labor and capital—the yield per man. On the test of production per man, we beat all the world from one and a half to four and a half times. American labor is the most alert and efficient in the world. The American farmer is the greatest machine-user in the world. What we need to do this year is to make the best use of our facilities for production, and then when the biggest possible crop is produced make the very best use we can of it."
Mr. Houston was not so deeply impressed with the shortage of wheat and potatoes as to advocate the plowing up of golf courses and such things in order to secure larger returns this year. He did not go in for the reclamation of swamp lands that would take four years or more to drain, nor did he display eagerness about undertaking new irrigation projects requiring anywhere from five to fifteen years for completion. He did not get excited about propositions to turn Western cattle ranges into fields for small grains this summer, nor did he lose any sleep trying to figure out the millions of bushels of sod corn that would be raised in 1917.
The Machinery at Hand
Mr. Houston believes that much can be done by extending the machinery already in service and by increasing the use made of it.
"The United States has developed the greatest agencies of agricultural assistance in the world," he said. "In personnel, scope, and efficiency they are unmatched.
"It is an interesting fact to recall now," continued the Secretary, "that two great groups of agencies came out of the crisis of the Civil War, and were erected under statutes that were signed by Abraham Lincoln. They are the Department of Agriculture and the Land Grant Colleges. There are 17,000 persons connected with the Department of Agriculture, and many others are working through the Land Grant Colleges. Here are services of investigation, conservation, distribution of food products, and education that are unrivaled."
Besides stimulating production, the problem of rendering full war service to our allies in the matter of food supply involves conservation of foods, improving distribution, elimination of waste, and the prevention of manipulation and uneconomic speculation. The question of waste, for instance, is of tremendous importance, but it has been exceedingly difficult to drive home to the people as a whole, perhaps because the waste in each family, by itself, may be only a small thing. It is the tremendous aggregate that gives this phase of the problem such importance.
"As a nation," says Secretary Houston, "we seem to have a disdain of economizing. In many homes there is a strong feeling that it is 'only decent' to provide more food than will be eaten, and that it is demeaning to reckon closely."
Reducing the Waist
We not only habitually provide more than is needed, we habitually eat more than is necessary—more, in fact, than is good for most of us. The enforced reduction of rations in Germany certainly worked improvement in health for many thousands of Germans for a long time. The characteristic "German paunch" has largely disappeared now, and along with it have gone many of the diseases of the digestive organs that used to be so common.
The experts of the Department of Agriculture have calculated that the waste of food in the United States by careless preparation, oversupply, and in such ways, amounts to more than $700,000,000 annually. That is, it is almost as much per year as the entire national debt was before the war.
It is in the families of moderate means and of wealth that the food waste is so great. The expert report is that it results in large measure from bad preparation and bad cooking, from improper care and handling, from serving too many courses and an over-abundant supply of the different courses, as well as from failing to make use of food not consumed at meals. It is a common thing, say the Department experts, to find that twenty per cent, of the edible portion of potatoes is thrown away in preparing them for cooking. That is the result of careless paring.
The careful German does not risk such a waste. In all his public kitchens, hotels, and places where food is prepared in quantities he has a machine that takes the skin off the potatoes. It is a huge grater that works under a water jet. It grates off the skin in such a way that the edible portion is not wasted at all, and from, the gratings potato flour is made, which materially helps out the wheat and rye flour in making bread.
It is not only in distributing and preparing food that our German enemies show their thrift. They eat what they get, leaving none and wasting none. Waste of food is reduced to an absolute minimum in Germany.
"Preach the gospel of the Clean Plate!" cries Herbert Hoover, urging our people to economize and prevent waste.
Our German enemies not only preach that gospel, they practise it. They practise it because "they have to, of course, and not merely because they want to; but they maintain the practise because they desire and are determined to win the war.
Remember that our supreme task is to beat these Germans in war. If they have, any methods which make for efficiency or economy that we can not improve upon we ought to profit by their example. Necessity in the form of food scarcity will not compel us to stint ourselves as they, perforce, are stinted, but the German example of endurance under dire adversity may well stimulate us to real and sober effort at effective economy.
In the effort to stimulate attention to the food problem the Department of Agriculture has published a number of bulletins, called the "Food Thrift Series," which are filled with interesting information set forth in catchy phrase. The Department has the services of an epigrammatic advertiser who is driving food facts home to the people in most attractive form. For instance, he says:
"Somebody has to raise everything you eat—Do your share!"
"Demonstrate Thrift in your Home!"
"Make your ground work for you and the Nation. Idle ground is waste."
This lesson has been well heeded by the whole country. The back yards of the United States, and many of the vacant lots, are filled with well-regulated potato patches and cabbage fields. The stimulation of production of garden-truck promises now to be of help to the nation not only in the matter of actual increase of food, but also in furnishing a certain relief from the strain on transportation. For practically all of this garden production is at home, and the result is that a part of the winter's supply will not require the amount of transportation heretofore used in that way, thus setting it free for important service elsewhere.
The epigrammatic advertiser of the Department of Agriculture gave attention to the matter of saving as well as of production of food. With commendable emphasis he placards this sound advice:
"Don't fatten your garbage pail at the expense of your bank account!"
To millions of the dwellers in these United States that pungent sentence has carried a new and striking thought. It has emphasized a new point of thrift. The garbage pail has a companion in the way of wasting food which draws the fire of the Department advertiser in this shot:
"Don't pour nourishment down the sewer!"
The common ways of wasting food are hard hit by this artist in epigrams. He says:
"Feed your own family first. Don't feed high-priced food to hogs or chickens. Don't send valuable food to the incinerator or fertilizer heap."
In stimulating production and in conserving foods and eliminating waste the psychological effect of public urging of patriotic national duty could be counted upon to accomplish much. More could have been done, to be sure, if the Government had had certain powers which it did not have; but still, as it was, a great deal was possible. In the paramount matters of improving distribution and preventing manipulation or speculation, however, additional powers were absolutely necessary in order to secure any material accomplishment, and the grant of proper powers would be of enormous assistance in the stimulation of production, conservation, and elimination of waste.
For example, the very first thing to do, when our food problem descended upon us, was to find out exactly where we stood; that is, how much food there actually was in the country, of what it consisted, where it was, in what ownership, and how it could be moved. But there was no power in the Government or in any other agency to undertake such a task. The Department of Agriculture has been obtaining a certain amount of information on certain lines of food supply, but it has all been given voluntarily to the Department, and under conditions which have prevented the maximum beneficial use of it from being made. The Department has had no power to ask the questions necessary in order to secure such information accurately, nor has it had power to compel any one to answer such questions as it did ask.
The Food Bills
To equip the Government with the powers necessary to adequate handling of this great "Food First" problem, two bills were prepared and introduced in Congress. There each of them has been subject to great controversy and attack. As this is written, one of them—that designated, for convenience, as the "Food Production" Bill, has been passed by both Houses, with certain differences, and is awaiting joint action in conference. The other, called the "Food Control" Bill, is still the center of heated controversy.
"The first thing to do, under the Food Production Bill," said Mr. Houston, "will be to make a quick inventory of the situation. It has been objected that it will take years for us to make a census of foods. But that is nonsense. Such a census would be of not the least value. What we want is a reasonably sure knowledge of what there is in the country, and we can find that out in a few days. Afterward we can maintain a system of monthly checks on this report, and when advisable make another inventory."
As I listened to Mr. Houston saying that, my mind went back to that winter day in Berlin when I sat in the office of a distinguished German official and heard him say:
"The first thing to do with such a problem, is to make a 'statistik.' We had ours made in ten days after we started."
Mr. Houston went on to outline the steps to be taken under the Food Production Bill following the national inventory. The second move will be to extend the county agency system to every rural county in the country. There are 2850 of them. With the means thus far placed at its disposal the Department has been able to organize only 1300. These agencies are of assistance to farmers in conservation and in marketing, as well as in organizing and stimulating production.
A third step will be to extend the present market machinery and news service, and to assist farmers in marketing their crops, especially perishables. This service has already rendered valuable assistance, although organized on only a small scale, and not nationally.
The fourth step will be a special attack upon plant and animal diseases, with emphasis upon hog cholera and the cattle tick, which now reduce our annual meat production by many millions of dollars. Extra efforts will be made in the case of the smaller animals and poultry.
The Department of Agriculture, the Land Grant Colleges, and the state institutions all together are now in touch with 150,000 local agents. Through the Bureau of Chemistry the Department is in touch with the food manufacturers and preservers of the country, and through the Bureau of Markets it is in touch with the distribution of food products.
"By the coordination of all these agencies," said the Secretary, "and through the new ones which we hope to be able to establish, we expect to be in position to keep in close touch with the situation throughout the country all the time. We expect to be able to assist in stimulating the preservation of perishables, in case of difficulty in marketing them, and to assist also in the matter of transportation."
The "Food Control" Bill is the one which meets the most serious objections, because it proposes to confer upon the Government powers heretofore unheard of in this country. It seeks to establish a control of all necessaries, and it defines necessaries as practically everything that is edible and everything that enters into the production of anything edible. If it passes in substantially the form urged by the Government, the Administration will be equipped with the "Economic Policeman" mentioned by Secretary Houston, and will have the power and means of establishing an effective control of food production, distribution, and consumption in this country.
"There is not a power in either bill," said Mr. Houston, when he discussed them with me, "which the other belligerents have not in increased measure, or that will interfere with legitimate business. Nor is there any power in either bill not essential for national safety in the present crisis."
Save or Starve
As this article is written, harvesting is under way in Texas and Oklahoma. By the time it is published, the new wheat from Kansas will be coming forward.
The estimated total production of all cereals in 1917 for all the world, except Germany and her allies, is nearly 51,000,000 tons less than the production for 1916 and is more than 19,000,000 tons below the annual average for the four-year period 1912-1916. The wheat crop of the non-Germanic world of this year is 12½ per cent below average.
The time has gone by when any help could be given this situation by further increase of production. The time has come when the best possible use of what is produced must be made.
"The primary aim," says Herbert Hoover, "is to see that the people of this country eat a sufficient quantity of food, but not an excess, and that they stop waste"
We waste food when we eat more than we need or more than is good for us. Many, if not most, of us waste food in this way every day.
We waste food when it is improperly prepared or cooked, when it is poorly seasoned, or burned or otherwise made unattractive to the eye or the palate.
We waste food when we have too much prepared or served for a meal; or when it is unnecessarily rich. This is a cardinal American means of waste.
We waste food when we do not insist on careful saving and repreparation of much that is left untouched at the table, too often permitting it to be thrown into the garbage pail.
Here is the chance to save with a definite purpose and for an object of supreme importance. To illustrate what saving can do, one of the means of saving recommended is the use of corn bread instead of all-wheat bread. A batch of corn bread for a family of five takes a cup and a half of white flour and a half a cup of corn-meal, instead of two cups of white flour. That saves only half a cup of white flour, and it might be regarded as an inconsequential saving. But consider that there are approximately twenty million families of five in the United States. If each one of them saved half a cup of white flour every day, there would be two and a half million pounds of white flour saved, or twelve thousand five hundred barrels of flour a day, or about 2,850,000 loaves of bread. With more corn-meal used in the bread the saving of white flour would be proportionately increased.
Suppose each one of the 20,000,000 families of the United States were to determine to do its bit by saving just one slice of white bread each day—that is, not actually to cut that slice and put it by to become dry and uneatable—but to reduce its bread consumption by one good slice a day, representing about three-quarters of an ounce of flour. That would be 15,000,000 ounces of flour or 937,500 pounds per day—about 4,750 barrels. The wheat in a barrel of flour averages four and one-half bushels, so that when 20,000,000 families in the United States save 20,000,000 slices of bread in a day they save about 21,500 bushels of wheat. At sixteen bushels per acre, which is a fair average for wheat production in the United States, that saving of a slice of bread per family per day saves the annual wheat production of 1350 acres. If that saving were kept up every day for a year by all the 20,000,000 families in the United States, it would add the wheat production of nearly 500,000 acres to send to our allies on the other side of the Atlantic.
Not every one can produce food. But almost every one can save some food, even a little, every day. And a hundred million littles put together make a mighty aggregate.
"Food first!" is our problem. Let everybody do his bit, and it will be well solved.
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013
If you appreciate the articles, read the e-novel informed by them —
THE HEADLONG FURY
A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald