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Thursday, 6 July 2017


When long military sieges took place, often the countryside nearby was turned into a wasteland resulting in shortages of food and other essential consumables. In such circumstances, the rations allocated to an individual were often determined based on age, sex, race or social standing. During the Siege of Ladysmith in the early stages of the Boer War in 1900, for instance, white adults received the same food rations as soldiers while food rations for Indian and black people were significantly smaller.

It was due to food rationing during the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War, that a French physician discovered a link between diet and diabetes management.

The first modern rationing systems were brought in during the First World War. In Germany, suffering from the effects of the British blockade, a rationing system was introduced in 1914 and was steadily expanded over the following years as the situation worsened.

First World War German government propaganda poster describing rationing

Britain introduced food rationing during World War II on January 8, 1940.

Because of rationing, the British people were forced to rustle up dreary meals from spam, powdered egg (eggs were rationed to one person per week) and home-grown vegetables.

American civilians first received ration books—War Ration Book Number One, or the "Sugar Book"—on May 4, 1942.

In the United States rationing meant the government limited each American to 28 ounces of meat per week plus restricting the amounts of butter, cheese, eggs and sugar each household was permitted. As a result sales of convenience and prepared foods increased and techniques of dehydration extended to eggs and other foods. Oven meals, in which all the meal was prepared in the oven at one time, became popular because they conserved fuel.

Lining up at the Rationing Board office, New Orleans, 1943

Food rationing during World War II actually increased life expectancy and decreased infant mortality. This was because all people were required to consume a varied diet.

Any British citizen who registered as a vegetarian during World War II surrendered his or her meat and bacon coupons in the ration book and received, in exchange, an extra 12oz of cheese and 2oz of cooking fat.

Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered gasoline rationing across the United States, starting on December 1. 1942.

Early models of the Land Rover were made from both steel and aluminium in the late 1940s, due to the rationing of steel and post-war abundance of aluminium, which had been used to make aircraft.

Britain’s 14 years of food rationing ended on July 4, 1954, when the restrictions on the sale of meat were lifted. At a ceremony in Trafalgar Square to mark the occasion, the Minister of Fuel and Power burned a large replica of a ration book.

Child's ration book, used in Britain during the Second World War

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