Rationing of everyday food items was an immediate effect of the United States’ declaration of war in December of 1941. The American economy experienced a quick transition from consumer-based production to war production. All raw materials and food resources were directed toward the production of items necessary for winning the war. Americans were quickly made aware of the fact that there was an army that must be fed and properly equipped for war.
Many common household food items were rationed at different times during the war including sugar, coffee, processed foods, meats, canned fish, cheese, canned milk, and fat. In addition to food, the government also rationed tires, cars, bicycles, fuel, stoves, and typewriters. A shortage of the raw materials necessary to produce these items resulted in the rationing.
The Office of Price Administration (OPA) ran the ration program during World War 2. This office was created in August of 1941 and abolished in March of 1947. The OPA had several responsibilities during the war including stabilizing prices, rationing items for which a shortage existed, and authorizing the payment of subsidies for the production of certain items. Subsidies are financial payments made to a business by the government in exchange for a guarantee that the business will comply with specific requirements. In the case of World War 2 rationing, businesses agreed to produce certain items and sell them at certain set prices in exchange for the subsidy.
In the end, most Americans complied with the restrictions set through the rationing process because they believed it was their patriotic duty as American citizens. Even if an individual or family had the money to buy more than the specified amount, they only purchased the amount allowed by their ration stamps. As an added way of contributing to the war effort, Americans were also encouraged to salvage, or recycle, items such as tin cans and even fats left over from household cooking.
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