BY VERNON KELLOGG
FOOD is always more or less of a problem in every phase of its production, handling, and consumption. It is a problem with every farmer, every buyer, transporter, and seller, every householder. It is a problem with every town, state, and nation. And now, very conspicuously, it is a problem with three well-defined great groups of nations: the Allies, the Central Powers, and the Neutrals; in a word, it is a great international problem.
If food is a problem in the normal times of peace, how much more seriously must it be one in the abnormal times of war; and, above all, of such a world-war as the present! In this particular war-time, indeed, it is acutely true that food is a great and pressing problem; one of enormous importance, its solution bearing heavily on the whole solution of the war. Only seven years ago M. Bloch, the great Russian banker, wrote: ‘That is the future of war — not fighting, but famine; not the slaying of men, but the bankruptcy of nations, and the breaking up of their whole social organization.’
The future of war, as written about by M. Bloch seven years ago, is the present of war to-day. Not that fighting and the slaying of men are lessened. Only the Napoleonic and the Thirty Years’ wars approach to-day’s war in the terrible losses of human life; and too great a drain on the human life of any one or several of the nations engaged may be the deciding factor in the war’s conclusion. But on the whole, that part of the prophecy referring to the predominant influence of t he food problem in modern war is thoroughly borne out by the facts. Despite the fearful and fatal struggling of an incredible number of men, consuming inconceivable quantities of munitions, and using such amazing methods of fighting as are beyond even the fantastic imaginings of the romancers of a decade ago, the national and international phases of the food and general economic problem are the predominant features of the war situation to-day.
Now we of America are hurling ourselves into the thick of this struggle at exactly the time of both military and economic and food crises. We are voluntarily taking up a part, and, in truth, the greater part, of the burden of solving this tremendous problem of food for the Allied world.
The present-day food problem of our nation, therefore, has, as its most, conspicuous phase, an international character. We have joined ourselves, in effect, if not in signed compact, with the Allies in a tremendous war task. The men of most of these Allies — the men of England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Italy and Belgium — are fighting; they are not on the farms. But even in peace-time these nations looked to us for help in making up the regular annual difference between their food-production and their food-needs; normally these six countries, taken together, produce but sixty per cent of the grains necessary for their bread. We have always been their greatest and most reliable granary, food-store, and meat-shop. And now, with their production notably lessened, we are almost their only one. The grain of Russia cannot come out. The food of Bulgaria, Roumania, and Serbia belongs to the Central Powers. Australia and India are much farther away than ever before, what with submarines and an available supply of ships so small that no ship must travel one sea-mile farther than is absolutely necessary. And the European neutrals, caught between two threatening fires, must divide their little available surplus of meat and dairy products between Germany and England. Of cereals they have, of course, no surplus, but rather an aching void; and, therefore, they too must come to us with appeals for the satisfaction of their needs.
America then has the immediate and very great, but not impossible, task, in the general division of war labors among the members of the Allied group, of playing a predominant part in insuring a sufficient and regular supply of food for the maintenance of the great field armies of our fighting Allies, and of their no less great armies of working men and women in the war industries, and finally, of their women and children at home. This maintenance of the food-supplies of the Western Allies is an absolute necessity, second to no other, of the successful prosecution of the war. Men continuously hungry cannot fight or work; nor will men with starving families continue to fight if they can feed their families by stopping fighting.
Let us then examine a little in detail the food-situation of the Allies, even going to that extreme, always dangerous for a writer who hopes to be read, of using a few figures. For if we limit ourselves simply to a generalized statement of the condition and need, we cannot point out in any precise terms just what we must do, and how do it, to meet our duty in this matter as a nation and as individuals.
Bread has not infrequently been referred to as the staff of life. And it really is. We of the Relief Commission found it so in feeding Belgium. The loudest call of the people, their principal anxiety, and our first care, all converged on wheat. German experience, as well as Belgian, has shown that a dietetic regimen for a semi-starving people is strong or weak, appeasing or dangerous, in proportion to the bread it contains. If the bread-ration is normal, or sufficient, much repression or substitution can be used in the case of the other foods. Thus, considered from the standpoint of either physiology or psychology, seeing to the breadsupply is the matter of first importance in the case of a people living on short rations and getting occasional glimpses into the abyss of starvation.
The cereals, then, should have first consideration in t he analysis of the Allied food situation. And all the cereals should be considered, not only those more strictly to be called bread-grains, but also those chiefly used as feedgrains for animals: first, because in a pinch such as the present one, a much larger use than usual of the feed-grains can be made for human consumption by mixing flour made from them with wheat flour for the bread; and, second, because on the availability of the feedgrains rests the production of meat, animal fats, and dairy products which, with sugar, are the other staples of diet.
The annual pre-war production of the cereals — wheat, corn, oats, barley and rye — of the Western Allies (the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and Italy) averaged, taking the three harvests immediately preceding the war as basis, about one and a half billion bushels annually. The annual consumption in the same period of these peoples amounted to nearly two and a quarter billion. But their production this year, because of lessened manpower available for the farms and consequent lessened acreage (in France the acreage is lessened by this and by the actual loss of land to the Germans by one third) and the lessened yield per acre, and also part ly because of shortage of fertilizer, — will fall short of the prewar average by half a billion bushels. In France, indeed, the wheat-production this year is hardly more than one half the normal.
The situation as regards the production of meat, animal fats, and dairy products is an equally serious one. The herds of the Allies have been seriously cut into since the war began by the lessened production and import (because of shipping shortage) of feedgrains and fodder for their support, and by the necessity of eating into the capital stock to meet the pressing demands for an increased ration of meat and animal fat of millions of men transferred from light or sedentary work to the severe physical exertion of the army or the war factories. This reduction of the herds by these causes means a lessened reproduction of animals, with consequent increased diminution of the natural replacement of the herds themselves, creating thus the proverbial vicious circle.
The cattle, sheep, and hogs of the Western Allies in 1913 were over a hundred million head. At the beginning of this year they are estimated at about seventy-five million. If the decline in France continues through all this year at the rate followed since the beginning of the war, France will have but twenty-six million head, as compared with thirty-eight million before the war. She has lost 16.5 per cent of her cattle, 33 per cent of her sheep and 38 per cent of her swine since 1914. And yet she fights, and gloriously! Is there any doubt that we shall help to feed her?
Finally, as to sugar also there is a serious situation to face. Before the war the Western Allies were consuming annually about three million tons and producing considerably less than half of it. France, Italy, and Belgium, indeed, each produced a little more than they consumed; but Britain, with an annual consumption of two million tons, produced no sugar at all. However, the large balance of production over consumption of Germany and Austria-Hungary, and the smaller balance of Russia, France, Italy, Belgium, and Holland, sufficed to supply a large part — seventy per cent — of Britain’s needs. She found the balance in Java, Mauritius, the West Indies (excluding Cuba) and South America, to the extent of 16.5 per cent; in Cuba and the United States, 8 per cent; and from other scattering sources 5.5 per cent.
As a result of the war the European production of sugar has been greatly lessened. The effect of this decrease and of the war situation generally is to cut off almost entirely Great Britain’s supply from Europe; for the other Allies, France, Belgium, and Italy, from being a little more than self-supporting as to sugar, are reduced now to calling on the outside world for approximately two thirds of their needs, so radically has their production been cut down.
So much for a swift examination of the actual situation of our Western European Allies. They need help, and need it badly, and it can come only from us. What then is our own situation? In what position are we to meet the need?
The United States is the greatest food-producing country in the world. We have a larger absolute acreage in crops than any other nation, except possibly China. This acreage (320,000,000 acres) is nearly equal to that of the peace-time acreage of all Europe, excluding Russia (354,150,000 acres). Our total pre-war annual production of cereals (breadand feed-grains together) averaged 4,800,000,000 bushels (average of crop of 1911, 1912, and 1913), while the total peace-time average for all the European countries except Russia, is almost exactly the same.
Similarly, figures might be given to show our enormous production of meat and animal products: last year, for example, it was over 20,000,000,000 pounds. But there is no special significance in these comparisons beyond their indication of our interesting magnitude as a food-producing land.
What will be more to the point, and is really needed, is a comparison of our production with our consumption. However impressive the figures of our output, they do not so much interest the world outside, nor in particular do they carry any comfort to our Allies, if there is not indicated in them the fact that we produce more than we consume. We are a large nation, and a young, vigorous, and growing one. Is our appetite and our need of food so great that we eat all we raise? And if we do not, do we leave uneaten enough to make up that deficiency between the imperative needs of our Allies and their production? In the precise answer to these questions we find our problem stated in exact terms. Hence we must again use a few figures.
Whatever our average annual production has been, the important thing at this moment is the production of 1917. Fortunately, the crops for this year are now so assured that figures can be given, with close accuracy, of the amount of each kind of cereal we may expect to harvest, or have already harvested, this year. The figures given are the government estimates of September. Our wheat crop will be about 668,000,000 bushels; our corn crop 3,248,000,000 bushels; our oats about 1,533,332,000; our barley 204,000,000, and our rye 56,000,000. Roughly, a total of five and a half billion bushels of breadand feed-grains. To the great advantage of ourselves and our Allies, this is a crop, taken as a whole, materially larger than our annual average. The excess, however, is made up of feed-grains and not bread-grains. It is in particular our bumper crops of corn and oats this year that run up the total. Our wheat crop is, as a matter of fact, below the average, which is about 800,000,000 bushels.
Our average normal annual consumption of wheat has been 590,304,000 bushels ; of corn, 2,653,698,000; of oats, 1,148,713,000; of barley 178,829,000; and of rye 35,866,000; a total of 4,607,410,000 bushels.
Thus, if we continue to consume our cereals as in pre-war time, we should have out of this year’s crop a surplus of about 80,000,000 bushels of wheat and 1,000,000,000 bushels of the other cereals taken together.
If we compare now the actual figures (obtained from official sources, and as nearly accurate as may be had) of the probable cereal production of the Western Allies for the year, together with those of their normal consumption, with the figures just quoted, we shall see the situation clearly and exactly.
The production of the Allies this year is closely estimated as follows: wheat, 393,770,000 bushels; other cereals, 567,016,000 bushels. Their normal consumption is: wheat, 974,485,000; other cereals 1,239,791,000.
That they may have a normal consumption until the next harvest, therefore, they must import in the next twelve months a total of about 580,000,000 bushels of wheat and 673,000,000 bushels of other cereals. Of this they can probably obtain from Canada (on the basis of the Canadian crop estimates for this year, and the known Canadian normal consumption) about 120,000,000 bushels of wheat and 119,000,000 of other cereals. This leaves them to obtain from us, if possible, about 460,000,000 bushels of wheat and 554,000,000 of other cereals.
Comparing these figures of the Allied needs from us with the figures of our probable exportable surplus on the basis of normal consumption, we find ourselves face to face with an easy solution — so far as grain goes; grain ships are another matter— of the situation as regards the ‘other cereals,’ of which we have more than enough to meet the necessity; but with what, at first glance, seems an impossible situation as regards wheat —for which read bread, with all of its significance as the very fundamental, the indispensable, basis of the daily ration. How are we — and our Allies — to meet this ‘impossible situation.’
But the trouble is not with wheat alone. We have already pointed out in general terms the serious situation of the Allies with regard to the other staples — meat, fats, dairy products, and sugar.
I do not want to burden this paper with figures and hence shall attempt no such detailed analysis of the situation with regard to these staples as that just undertaken as to the cereals. But a few statements will lend some definiteness to the situation.
The cutting down of the meat production of the Allies, and the limitation as to import from other than American sources, is revealed by the enormous growth of American meat exports, most of which have gone to the Western Allies, since the beginning of the war. Our annual average for the three years just before the war was 493,848,000 pounds; for the year ending June 30, 1916, it was 1,339,193,000. These figures do not include pork products, the exports of which have gone up from a billion pounds a year before the war to a billion and a half pounds for the year ending June 30, 1916.
This demand for meat will not lessen as the war goes on; it will increase. And it will continue for some years after the war, because the reduction of the European herds cannot be made good in a day, or a year.
This growing scarcity of native animals and animal products among our Allies, and their dependence on us, are evidenced also by the export figures for dairy products. Our annual average export of butter for the three years before the war was four and a half million pounds, of cheese three and three fourths millions, and of condensed milk about eighteen millions. For the year ending June 30, 1917, it was: butter, nearly twenty-seven million pounds; condensed milk nearly two hundred and sixty millions; and cheese sixty-six millions.
Finally, another word as to sugar. We have seen that the war has greatly reduced the production of France, Italy, and Belgium (Britain, of course, produces none) and has forced all the Allies away from most of their usual outside sources of supply and made them turn for help to the United States and to our own usual sources of import. For we have never produced in our own country and possessions (the Philippines, Hawaii, and Porto Rico) much more than half the amount consumed by us. We have relied on Cuba to make up our deficiency. Our annual consumption is about four million short tons, while the normal total production of the United States and its possessions, Cuba and the other West Indies, in pre-war times was about four and a half million tons. Fortunately there has been, since the beginning of the war, an increase in production in these countries, due to the spur of the increased European demand, of about a million tons. But from the present total the Allies need to draw at least a million and three fourths tons; perhaps two millions this year. In other words, we and the Allies need to draw about six million tons from sources producing about five and a half millions; a problem in arithmetic — and eating!
We have outlined one phase, the international one, of the food-problem. But there is another. It is the national, or domestic one. This ties up closely, of course, with the wider aspect of the problem. Indeed, it is to a large extent immediately caused by the attempt at provisioning the Allies, in the uncontrolled manner in which the attempt has been made from the beginning of the war up to now. The more nearly the Allies — and the European neutrals, with their underground pipes into Germany— have come to being fed from America, in the unregulated way so far in vogue, the larger and more acute has grown the domestic problem. It reveals it self most readily, perhaps, by a simple inspection of home
prices for home products and a comparison of them as they stand to-day with the corresponding prices before the war.
Taking an average of the retail prices for the five years just before the war as a basis, the prices of various familiar foods on July 15, 1917, showed the following percentages of increase: corn meal 115; flour 110; potatoes 110; lard 81.5; bacon 70; pork chops 66; round steak 65.5; ham 64; sugar 53; sirloin steak 51; rib roast 47; poultry 41; milk 27.5; butter 26.5; eggs 24.33.
But the whole story is not told by such a simple comparison. The rate of increase has not been an even one. It has accelerated with time, for example: the price of wheat per bushel was $1.071 on August 1, 1916, and on August 1, 1917, $2.289; corn advanced from 79.4 cents to $1.966; barley from 59.3 cents to $1.145; rye from 83.4 cents to $1.781; potatoes from 95.4 cents to $1.708. That is, of each of these important commodities, with the single exception of white potatoes, the price has more than doubled within the last year. Where are they going? When are they going to stop?
These terrible present prices of all commodities weigh heavily upon consumers, especially on those who depend on a monthly salary or a day wage; and these constitute the greater proportion of the population. It is true that there have been advances in wages — in some cases, several successive advances. But these altogether seldom amount to more than twenty-five per cent, and therefore they are not at all in proportion to the increased cost of food-stuffs. These exaggerated prices have caused general alarm and a widespread belief that serious trouble is likely to confront us in the coming winter unless relief is arranged for.
There may be — undoubtedly are — several causes contributing to this excessive price increase, but the fundamental cause is certainly the unregulated way in which the extraordinary demand from our Allies and the European neutrals for all essential commodities has been met. One of the contributing causes has been ‘ hoarding,’ either by the householder buying an unusual amount ahead of his needs, or, and much more seriously, by the large purchases of speculat ors, and the holding of these purchases against the inevitable increase in price. These purchases and holdings themselves help to make the increase inevitable. There has been too, unquestionably, a certain amount of coöperation between men handling certain commodities, to the deliberate end of advancing prices and thus increasing profits.
One part of our domestic problem, then, is that of effecting by one means or anot her a decrease and stabilization of prices. This presupposes a corrective for hoarding and manipulation — for ‘profiteering,’ generally. Another part, which is also a part of the international problem, is the organization of our food-production and use so as to create the surplus needed for supplying our Allies, and the regulation, in connection with the Allied governments, of the supplying of this surplus in such manner as not to force up our home prices too dangerously. Here to fore the Allies have made their purchases in our markets in competition both with each other and with the buyers for our own homes. And, finally, there is another part, also international rather than domestic in aspect, which is to create an effective check against an oversupply to neutrals — with their dubious connections. Our food-problem is thus, after all, just one big problem, domestic and international at once.
So far it has been all ‘problem.’ What of the solution?
The solution is food-conservation; or, better, food-administration. For food-conservation, as a term, is sometimes used to denote only that part of the general organization, control, and economical use of food which is chiefly indicated by the last phrase; that is, the general technic and details of the economic use, preservation, substitution, and so forth, of food in the household, public eating-places, and retail shops. The situation involves, however, much more than this food-conservation, in the strict sense. It calls for food-conservation of the broadest sort, involving administrative, educational, coöperative, compulsory, and voluntary activities of wide diversity and application; in a word, it depends upon an intelligent, organized, vigorous Food-Administration.
For the people of this country have called for and organized food-control, just as the people of Italy, France, and Great Britain successively saw the necessity, called for such cont rol, and were given it; and the people of Germany were given it without the calling. It is almost certain that none of these peoples could have maintained itself in the war without governmental foodcontrol. And so our people have got, as a hoped-for solution of their problem, a United States Food-Administration. What is it? What may it do? What can it do? What is it doing?
On August 10 of this year, just four months after our entrance into the war, Congress passed, and the President immediately signed, the ‘ food-control bill,’ introduced in the House on June 11. The delay in the passage of the bill was chiefly due to a reluctant Senate. On the day of its passage President Wilson appointed Herbert Hoover to be his representative as head of the Food-Administration, with the title of Food-Administrator. Great Britain’s food-head, at present Lord Rhondda, is officially entitled Food-Controller; France’s administrator, M. Viollette, is called Ministre du Ravitaillement.
On August 12 Mr. Hoover formally announced the policy and general plans of the Food-Administration. It should be interesting and profitable to present here a brief analytical summary of the act.
It authorizes a governmental control over the supply, distribution, and movement of all food, feeds, and fuels, and all machinery, implements and equipment required for their actual production. Any agency necessary to carry out this control may be created; any existing department or agency of the government may be used.
All destruction of food or fuel for the purpose of enhancing prices is prohibited; all willful waste, all hoarding, all monopolization, all discrimination and unfair practices, all unjust charges in handling and dealing in food and fuel, and all combining to restrict the production, supply, or distribution are made unlawful.
Manufacture, importation, storage, and distribution can be carried on only by license, when the President shall deem it essential to institute such licensing. Exception to the license requirements is made in favor of farmers, coöperative associations dealing with products produced by their members, and retail dealers whose business is less than $100,000 a year.
Food, feeds, and fuel necessary for the army, navy, and public service may be requisitioned. Hoarded supplies may be seized, sold, and distributed. The government may purchase, store, and sell at reasonable prices, wheat, flour, meal, beans, and potatoes. Factories, packing-houses, pipelines, and fuel mines may be taken over and operated by the government for such time as is necessary to secure adequate supplies for the public service.
Regulations may be issued to prevent speculation, manipulation, enhancement, depression, or fluctuation of prices, and to control the operation of exchanges, boards of trade, and similar organizations dealing in food, feeds and fuel.
For the purpose of stimulating production the government may guarantee for a period not longer than eighteen months a price which will insure the producer a reasonable profit. The minimum price of the 1918 crop of Number 1 Northern Spring wheat is fixed at two dollars per bushel at the principal interior markets. The import tariff on food, feeds, and fuel may be increased if such increase is considered necessary to prevent undue importation from other countries.
No foods or feeds shall be used for the production of distilled spirits for beverages. No distilled spirits may be imported. All distilled spirits in bond or stock are commandeered, and any of these stocks may be redistilled to meet the requirements of the government in the manufacture of munitions and military and hospital supplies.
Particular powers are given in regard to the production of and dealing in coal and coke. Prices may be fixed. If these prices are not conformed to, the mine or plant and business of the offending producer may be taken over. If deemed necessary, the producer of coal and coke may be required to sell solely to the government, and the government may act as the sole dealer in the resale of the supplies.
The government is au thorized to purchase nitrate of soda to increase agricultural production in 1917 and 1918, and to sell this fertilizer for cash.
In all cases where a commodity or operating plant is requisitioned, just compensation is to be made.
Appropriations are made to carry on the business operations authorized in the act, and for the special purchase of nitrate of soda, and for the general expenses of the Food-Administration.
The enumeration of the statutory powers of the Food-Administration answers the query, what may be done. What can be done is another matter. The Food-Administration may stimulate production; can it? It may prevent all hoarding, manipulation, and profiteering; again, can it? The answer does not depend on the FoodAdministrator alone. It depends much more, indeed, on the people of the country. We are patriots enough to stand up with the right music, to float the flag, and to yell when the soldiers go by. We are even patriots enough to offer our lives to our country. Are we patriots enough to stand without flinching when our pockets and appetites are touched? We shall see.
The Food-Administration has made a vigorous beginning. The long, vexing, injurious delay in the passage of the bill was not all lost time. The FoodAdministrator to be was preparing. He made the beginnings of his volunteer organization; he found temporary quarters, beginning with three rooms in a Washington hotel, and moving about with his growing staff as eviction followed eviction from other temporarily loaned resting-places. The day after the act was signed things began to happen officially; their beginnings had already been made unofficially.
As wheat — always thought of in terms of bread — was of first importance, so its consideration came first on the programme. At this writing, one month after the passage of the bill, a ‘fair price’ ($2.20 a bushel) has been fixed for this year’s crop. A great FoodAdministration Grain Corporation and a coöperating Food-Administration Milling Division have been formed to control its entire handling, purchase, sale, distribution, and export. A sugarcontrol is well under way; meat and fats are soon to be dealt with. Dealers in food commodities are being put on a basis of license; that is, are under some control. There are well-developed special divisions of the Food-Administration on meat and meat products, wholesale groceries, canned goods, sugar, potatoes, dairy products, fruits and vegetables, fish, and commercial bread and baking systems. There is a statistical division, a legal division, a state-organizations division connecting immediately with state food-administrators, representing the federal FoodAdministration, a division of utilities and research in nutritive values and the like, a transportation division, one of labor, and one of imports, exports, and embargo, acting in close connection with the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and State, with a firm grip already on the spiny problem of export to European neutrals, with its serious corollary of — let us put it bluntly — export to Germany.
Also, there are all the necessary special divisions for internal office-organization and administration. And, finally, there is a large, driving division of food-conservation, in the strict sense. This really demands a full paper by itself. It must, at least, have a separate paragraph or two in this paper.
It is this department that connects the Food-Administration immediately with all of the people. We are all consumers, and food-conservation, in its special sense, concerns itself primarily with food-consumption. The primary object of this special part of the foodconservation campaign is to bring about an intelligent rearrangement of the eating habits of our hundred million people so that the particular foodstuffs most needed by the Allies can be accumulated. This has to be done in the face of a normal surplus — which has to be made larger—and by a people long accustomed to a use of food limited chiefly only by its cost.
To do this it is necessary first to convince our people that food is a decisive factor in the war, that the strength of our Allies can be maintained only by a food-supply meeting their minimum necessity, and that it is our duty and opportunity in this war to make sure of this food-supply. Food-conservation becomes then a patriotic service.
Next, it is necessary to point out how each household and public eatingplace and each individual consumer can actually act so as to conserve food. The details and special efforts centre about three principal general propositions: elimination of waste; substitution of certain foods for others, as corn for wheat, poultry for beef, mutton, and pork, and so forth; and, an actual lessening of unnecessary consumption. To instruct and enlist the nation the already organized forces of the people are being brought into play. The special help of community centres and state organizations, of the public-school teachers, the churches, fraternal orders and patriotic societies, has been enlisted. Their representatives have come to Washington and are devotedly helping in the great campaign. Work in home economics is being directed by experts. Simple primers and textbooks and lecture-course syllabi for the public schools and colleges have been prepared and issued. Most important of all, perhaps, the energetic coöperation of the women of the country has been obtained. Cards specifying the particular measures most available and effective for food-saving and wise food-use in the homes and public eating-places are being sent broadcast, and pledges to observe these suggestions are being signed by millions of households, hotel, restaurant, dining-car, and club managers, and individual consumers.
These pledge-signers are enrolled as members of the Food-Administration and receive cards of membership which they are asked to display in their windows, so as to announce their patriotic undertaking and thus serve as a good example to others.
The results of this great campaign are already obvious. An actual foodsaving, a food-conservation, is being effected. This is shown concretely by interesting statistics recently collected from sixty cities which reveal a decrease in the garbage collections by about 12 per cent, as compared with those of last year. Quite as important, a psychological effect is being produced. Food-conservation is making the war real; it is inspiring patriotism. It offers the opportunity for universal service in a great national endeavor; and it is creating this service. Incidentally, it may mean much for the years after the war; we may get the food-saving habit — and the habit of patriotism.
Another phase of food-administration is that of the stimulation of production. Under the provisions of the so-called ‘food-survey bill,’ signed on August 10, the Secretary of Agriculture is authorized to investigate in detail the actual food situation in the country and to employ a variety of special measures, such as the special furnishing of seed, demonstrations, and enlarged efforts at education for increasing the food-production. This work does not come under the immediate control of Mr. Hoover’s organization, but it is a matter in which the Food-Administration is vitally interested, and in which it is taking every opportunity to assist and to coöperate with the Department of Agriculture. There has already been a notable response of the people to the call for increased production, evidenced by the two million or more new back-yard and vacant-lot gardens planted this summer, and a plain promise of increased acreage for the 1918 crop of grain.
A pertinent question, the answer to which has been as yet no more than indicated in this paper, is that concerning food-conservation by the Allies. Americans who are asked to limit their consumption of bread, meat, and sugar for the sake of supplying our Allies with food will want to know what the Allies themselves are doing in the way of food-economy. That each of them has a government al food-ad ministration has already been said. On the heels of this it may be added at once that these administrations are vigorous ones, and their actions drastic. They undertake something that will not be undertaken here. They practically put the people of their countries on ration. They prescribe just how much, or rather how little, meat and bread and sugar may be served at any meal in a public eating-place. They proscribe cakes and sweets and other unnecessary luxuries that use up wheat and sugar and milk. They compel the making of war bread — that is to say, bread from wheat milled at 80 per cent in England, — meaning that 80 per cent of the whole kernel of the wheat goes into the flour, — 85 per cent in France, and 90 percent in Italy, and mixed with from 20 to 50 per cent of flour made from other cereals (barley, rye, oats, and rice). They prohibit the use of meat on certain days.
Each of these countries rigidly controls the commercial agencies handling foods and has set up a governmental purveying of the important staples. Fixed prices are established for various kinds of food. Each country, most notably England, has conducted a vigorous nation-wide campaign for the voluntary coöperation of all its people in food-conservation. Every household in England which accepts the government’s call to save food, hangs in a window facing the street a poster declaring, —
IN HONOUR BOUND WE ADOPT THE NATIONAL SCALE OF VOLUNTARY RATIONS.
In the short street in London in which I lived this spring three out of four of the houses displayed this indication of their patriotism. In a certain village of two hundred and fifty houses all but twenty-five displayed the poster.
Great efforts have been made to stimulate production. Minimum prices for wheat have been guaranteed to the farmers for future crops. England’s guaranty extends over six years.
And all this control and appeal have produced results. England’s use of bread has been reduced twenty-five per cent, according to an August estimate of the Food Controller; in some cities, — York, for example, — it is greater. France has reduced (August) her use of meat seventeen per cent since March of this year. Marked additions to the acreage of grain and potatoes have been made. England estimates an addition of half a million acres of wheat and potatoes for this year. The increased acreage of garden and small cultivation is even more notable. Flower gardens have become vegetable gardens; waste places are blossoming like the rose — but with potato blossoms. Over one hundred thousand women are now in regular agricultural employment in localities where before the war no women at all were employed. The government has placed several thousand motortractors at the service of the farmers.
In a word, our Allies are not asking us for food without making the most strenuous efforts to help themselves. And all the time, they are fighting and making munitions, and doing all the thousand urgent and serious things necessary for the efficiency of their millions of fighters in the field — and for their comfort when they come back to ‘Blighty.’
Patriotism and food! Winning a world-war by eating corn and chicken instead of wheat and beef! It will take much education to get this point of view. An army of food-savers does not appeal to the imagination at first consideration. But remember the large words of M. Bloch: ‘That is the future of war — not fighting, but famine.’
I had some opportunity during the two years from May, 1915, to May, 1917, of seeing embattled Germany at close range. And I saw Germany fighting, not only with armies of men in field-gray, but with greater armies of un-uniformed men, women, and children — the civilian armies of workers and food-savers. Germany is fighting as a whole people, a whole nation mobilized. Germany is fighting to win a war that was to have been all conquest and glory, and is now all Durchhalten. In this fighting and Durchhalten Germany has lifted food to all the importance that M. Bloch prophesied for it. She is struggling to hold off famine from herself and to impose famine upon her enemies. Germany controls food, saves food, stretches food, as no nation has ever done before. That she has not already been beaten is due no less to her food-organization than to her fighting organization. She has put patriotism and food together. So must we.
It is a time of rare and glorious opportunity; a time in which prosaic business and industry may be lifted up to the high plane of national service. And it is being so conceived in many quarters, The editor of a millers’ journal puts it well for his miller and baker readers when he says, ‘He who grinds a barrel of flour or makes a loaf of bread to the glory and the good of the nation, forgetful of self, performs his duty in a spirit of devotion equal in its way to that of him who goes forth to actual battle.’
And just as business and industry can perform their national service by putting patriotism and food together, so can we who serve our households and public dining-rooms; and so also can we who eat — in a word, all of us. There is no magic way of making food win the war. It can be done in but one way, the way of voluntary and eager resolution and action of the whole people, each group and each person according to the measure of his opportunity and means; a matter of daily personal service on every farm, in all the places through which pass the great food masses, and, finally, in every little shop and every kitchen and at every table in the land.
It is not a sordid association, patriotism and food. It can be as fine as the spirit of democracy and as ennobling as the struggle for democracy. For in these days it is, in truth, an essential part of each. If we cannot organize our effort in this world-crisis by the individual initiative, spirit, and consent of the people, then democracy is a faith on which we cannot stand. For autocracy has shown that it can organize its effort; it does it by imposing organization by force from the top. We must do it from the bottom, and voluntarily. The administration of food is a test of what our form of government is worth. If success in it did no more than insure its immediate aim, — providing our Allies with food, — it would be wholly worth while. But it will do much more than that: it will prove our faith in ourselves.