Rosie the Riveter and Nutrition

by Matilda Butler on June 12, 2017

Post #82. Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story by Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

World War II, Rationing, and Nutrition

Rosie the Riveter had many new concerns during World War II. We know about her concerns for family and friends who were overseas. We know about her work for the war effort. But you might not have thought about Rosie the Riveter and nutrition.

You are aware that there was rationing during WWII. You’ve probably even seen the coupon books as well as the tokens (vulcanized fiber) given as change when ration coupons were used. Do you know what items were rationed?

Right after Pearl Harbor, the OPA (Office of Price Administration) developed a rationing system as they knew the war effort would use many of the supplies that had previously been a normal part of the American lifestyle. The first item to be rationed was tires and that happened on December 11, 1941. Actually, the OPA simply halted ALL sales of tires until an adequate plan could be put into place and that happened on January 5, 1942. Rubber would be critical for the military since Japan had already taken over the countries that supplied rubber to the US. A way to restrict the use of steel and rubber was to stop the sales of cars (as of January 1, 1942 only to a few designated professions such as doctors) and then by February the manufacture of cars was halted. Factories making cars were almost immediately switched to military vehicles.

Each month saw new consumer products added to the rationed list. For example, in March, typewriters were rationed. In the same month, the manufacture and sale of dog food in tin cans was eliminated. At that point, dog food began to be sold as a dehydrated product in sacks or bags.

Also in March of 1942, meat, cheese, fats, canned fish, canned milk and other processed foods were added to the list of rationed provisions. And how much did you get of a rationed item? Here are a few specifics:

1. 1/2 pound of sugar per week
2. 1 pound of coffee every five weeks
3. 2 pounds of meat per week, per person
4. 4 ounces of cheese per week, per person

What was Rosie to do to ensure that she provided her family and herself with good nutrition when so much was limited?

That question gets to the heart of this article. I found a USDA nutrition chart that came out in 1943 that was meant to help Rosies (and others, of course) know what foodstuffs to eat. It stated that there were other sources of protein since red meat was restricted. The chart showed that protein could be found in poultry, fish, eggs, dried beans, peas, nuts, and peanut butter. What is ESPECIALLY FUN is that the chart specifically shows Rosie. She’s even wearing her polka dot bandana.

Here’s the full USDA nutrition chart. You’ll see Rosie in the upper right.

Want to know about other items rationed? By November 1943, the list included: typewriters (manual, of course), gasoline, bicycles, footwear, silk (think stockings), nylon, fuel oil, stoves, meat, lard, shortening and food oils, cheese, butter, margarine, processed foods (canned, bottled, and frozen), dried fruits, canned milk, firewood and coal, jams, jellies, and fruit butter.

Rosie, fortunately, knew how to be careful with food having just gone through The Depression. Many of those recipes came in handy during WWII. And, I imagine the USDA chart was also a help.

[By the way, Kendra and I include a small Rosie the Riveter Cookbook in our DIY Rosie the Riveter costume kit. We had fun finding and then testing the recipes.]

Do you have a World War II recipe from your family? If so, we’d love to hear from you. We will be expanding our cookbook in the future. Just email me… I’ll get back to you for more details.

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