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OCR for page 168
IMPACT OF THE WAR ON LOCAL FOOD HABITS MARCH 27, 1943 This meeting was devoted to a series of papers presented by individuals who were in particularly advantageous positions to observe the changes in the food habits of selected groups of the population. Each paper was com- mented on by Mr. W. M. Drummond, Assistant Washington Representa- tive of the Wartime Prices and Trade Board of Canada. The reports illustrated clearly the fact that food habits are not a question merely of individual behavior, but respond to the impact of an enormous number of changing situations. Most obvious is the change in the amount of food available. In Detroit, according to Sir. Andrew Brown. of the Divi - sion of Services to Labor, Detroit Council of Social Agencies, the supply of vegetables was the same as for last year, but was no longer adequate because of the influx of 350,ooo more people. Mrs. Esther Marenholtz, of the Divi- sion of Program Surveys, Department of Agriculture, reported that on the West Coast many people had had no fresh meat at all for as much as six weeks and that they had requested that meat be included in the rationed food. In addition to the change in food supply, there are decreases in food ser- vices. In Detroit, 6C/o of the restaurants were reported to have closed, be- cause of both the manpower shortage and the cuts in food allocations, and at the same time an increase in restaurant eating was anticipated. There was a solo decrease in retail stores in Detroit, not among those operating on narrow margin, but supposedly among the many grocers who felt that they could not stand the pressure any longer. Alterations in the price structure and shifts in the economic level account for some changes. The difference in arrival time in New York and Detroit of an Office of Price Administration telegram freezing prices resulted in a real shortage of snap beans in Detroit, since they could be sold for higher prices in New York, where the market was still open when the wire arrived and the prices were raised before they were frozen. In some areas meat short- ages are attributed to the fact that some groups in the lower economic levels have much more purchasing power than previously and can buy meats which they formerly save purchased only by others, as, for example, in a Virginia county. Dr. Arthur Raper, of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, United States Department of Agriculture, reported that the lower income tobacco growers there have made more money than ever before, and so bought beef roast every two or three weeks during the tobacco sale season instead of only once or twice a year. The attitudes toward the changes taking place will determine whether the changes are likely to become permanent or will be considered only temporary, to be discarded as soon as the war is over. A study in the Chicago area * See.minutes of the Liaison Session of the Committee on Food Habits, March 27, , under same title. I68
OCR for page 168
Impact of the War on Local Food Habits ~69 made by Mr. Herbert Passin and Mr. John Bennett, Office of War Informa- tion, showed that the reactions of people to rationing, scarcity, and short- ages are determined to a great degree by their general attitudes tow-arc the war; those with a midwestern type of isolationism are likely to be against rationing. In many other areas, people are relying on rationing to solve the problems of shortages; they think of it as a means of equal distribution and of insuring enough for all, not as a conservation measure. Changes in the frames of reference of some people were reported, a shift in prestige from expensive items to those dietetically valuable, and an in- creased emphasis upon husbands' diets and needs as hard-working men, with differential rationing suggested. On the other hand, the rigidity of thinking in regard to meal patterns was shown by the attitude on the West Coast that "lunch meats" were not a substitute for meat and by the general resistance in the Seattle area to talking about "substitutes." In Seattle, they preferred to think that they were making choices and were confident they could take care of themselves. A second function of the meeting was to illustrate the interdependence be- tween Canada and the United States, because what is done in one country is interpreted very often on the basis that both countries are alike, with little understanding of the differences. Mr. Drummond pointed out some of the 'differences in the dietaries of the two countries, such as the greater con- sumption of potatoes and butter in Canada, due partly to the smaller supply of other vegetables and fats, as well as the differences in attitude toward shortages caused by the war, which had been felt for a longer period of time in Canada, and also cited the greater control over purchasing power in Canada. The need for a more inclusive plan in regard to food in this country was emphasized. Although rationing may in some cases encourage the purchase of rationed foodstuffs, it cannot be expected to influence the diet of the people unless all essential foods are rationed, nor is this considered at present to be a legitimate purpose. There are many problems not being met by any agency, such as are created by the disappearance of retail stores or restaurants, or by the absence of ice supply for an entire community, or those created by lack of adequate eating facilities in industrial plants. These situations point to the vital need for a coherent program including all aspects of food supply and distribution.