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More Meat, Less Wheat

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The year was 1918, and the United States was heavily involved in the Great War -- World War One. To feed soldiers overseas, federal and state governments set limitations on the amount of certain foods Americans could eat at home. For example, North Dakotans had meatless Tuesdays. However, on this date, North Dakota’s food administrator Dr. E. F. Ladd changed that by announcing that all restrictions on meat would be lifted for 30 days.

Just the evening before, the federal government had announced that wheat consumption should be cut drastically. This announcement came from Herbert Hoover, who was the federal food administrator and would become president years later. Hoover strongly recommended that every American should not eat any wheat until the next harvest. This announcement came as no surprise, especially considering that the last national wheat harvest had been smaller than expected. Up to this time, the American war effort depended on Argentine wheat exports to feed soldiers. Similarly, British, French, and Italian troops often used American wheat in their rations, which put stress on wheat consumption at home.

Dr. Alonzo Taylor from the FDA advised hotels and restaurants to set an example by dropping wheat from their menus. Dr. Taylor also commented that “the patron who comes to you with the demand that he must have wheat and can’t eat substitutes is either a slacker or a crank – and we must not humor either.” The Fargo Forum reported that over 400 hotels immediately took the advice.

Dr. E. F. Ladd responded to the wheat restrictions by relaxing meat restrictions. He noticed that there was a surplus of beef and pork entering the markets, and there were plenty of potatoes and dairy products as well. By eating more meat, potatoes, and dairy, North Dakotans could eat less wheat. Ladd still reminded North Dakotans to be moderate in their general food consumption to help the soldiers overseas.

Ladd’s announcement came right in time for Easter. As Easter was on March 31st that year, the wartime abstinence from meat ended the same time as some religions ended a period of meat abstinence. As families came together to celebrate, they remembered their relatives “over there,” who would hopefully be back next year.

Dakota Datebook by Jacob Dalland

Sources:

The Bismarck Tribune. 1918, March 30. Page 1

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. 1918, March 30. Page 2

Jamestown Weekly Alert. 1918, April 4. Page 11

The Weekly Times-Record. 1918, April 4. Page 6

Williston Graphic. 1918, April 4. Page 12

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