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The Food Pledge

On this date in 1917, Europe was at war. America had not yet joined the fight, but there was another war to be waged: the war against hunger. Europe was woefully short of food. Herbert Hoover, the Food Administrator, announced that the United States could do a great deal to help the European allies, suggesting that Americans eat less of the foods that could be shipped to Europe, and more of the perishable foods that could not.

The Food Administrator position was established by The Lever Act, which was signed into law the previous August. Critics of the law were concerned that the Food Administrator was given too much power to make sweeping decisions on his own. But President Wilson was able to push the law through.

Hoover’s job was to oversee the use of agricultural products. He had the authority to fix food prices, license distributors, coordinate purchases, oversee exports, act against hoarding and profiteering, and incentivize farmers to grow more crops.

In support of the effort to help the allies, the Hope Pioneer urged North Dakotans to enlist in the Food Conservation Movement. Europe needed bread and butter as well as beef, pork, sugar, and dairy products. American housewives were called upon to do their part to make the world safe for democracy. To that end, the Food Pledge Campaign was scheduled to open on October 21st and run for one week.  All housewives were asked to sign the pledge. The campaign required no dues or contributions. All that was needed was a signature. The signer pledged to carry out the directions and advice of the Food Administrator. The signature on the pledge card was “a promise to the Federal Government” that North Dakotan’s were in support of the United States and our allies.

Across the country, states took steps to comply with the Food Conservation Movement. The article in the Hope Pioneer argued that North Dakota bore a notable responsibility to make the program a success, since except for sugar, every food item on the list was produced in the state. The article said North Dakota’s contribution to the war effort could be “extra large” if each of the state’s 138,000 families would carefully conserve.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Hope Pioneer. “Enlist in the Food Conservation Movement.” 11 October 1917. Hope, ND Page 1

The Liberal Democrat. “As to County Agents.” 23 August 1917. Liberal KS. Page 8.

The Daily Times. “Business Men Mobilize Again.” 9 October 1917. Barre VT. Page 1.

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