Home Life History: Kitchen fats were scarce in 1945

History: Kitchen fats were scarce in 1945

The August 9, 1945 issue of The Bossier Banner called attention to the fact that a scarcity of fats and oils was a big problem for the United States’ efforts in World War II.

“One of the most significant statements made by a government official regarding shortages and food difficulties comes from Clinton P. Anderson, Secretary of Agriculture.  Mr. Anderson underscores the fats and oils shortage in an appeal to women and has authorized the American Fat Salvage Committee to release his message.”

“In asking women’s help in the fats and oils shortage, the Secretary of Agriculture sees increased household fat salvage as [an] aid to meeting needs.  Mr. Anderson says ’The scarcity of fats and oils is one of the most serious problems confronting our nation.  But it is one shortage which the women of America can help to meet.’

’There is little hope of major improvement in the domestic supply of fats and oils in the near future, nor can we expect a rapid increase of imported oils from the Pacific.’ “

“‘Farmers have responded to the call to produce more animal and vegetable fats and oils.  But we are still unable to meet war-time demands.’ “

“‘During the war years we have changed from an importing to an exporting nation on fats and oils.  Our domestic stocks are at a low ebb and our war, industrial and relief needs are at a peak.’ “

“‘During 1945 we need 250,000,000 pounds of used household fats to help fill our existing deficit.  If American housewives don’t meet this goal, we will have to further curtail the allotments for civilian, industrial and military uses.’ “

“‘This is an important job for women! Homemakers all over the land—in cities, towns and villages and on farms—should save and turn in every available drop of used kitchen fat.  It means cash and extra red ration points.’ “

“‘But, above all, it’s a real War Service women can perform for themselves and for their country.’”

The Atlantic Monthly for April18, 2014 published an article titled “Turning Bacon into Bombs.”    The article explained the use of household fats in World War II.

“The American Fat Salvage Committee was created to urge housewives to save all the excess fat rendered from cooking and donate it to the army to produce explosives. As explained to Minnie Mouse and Pluto in one wartime video, fats are used to make glycerin, and glycerin is used to make things blow up.”

“One pound of fat supposedly contained enough glycerin to make about a pound of explosives. Patriotism aside, many American housewives were not enticed. Only about half donated their excess cooking fats. Saturated fats were of little health concern at the time and cooking grease was hard to come by, especially once rations were imposed. But moreover, many distrusted government-dictated food programs which also threatened what became a defining feature of the American way of life: being well-fed.”

The Bossier Parish Library Historical Center collections offer an abundance of photographs, documents and objects related to World War II so visit the Center to learn more.

Ann Middleton is Director of the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center. She can be reached at (318) 746-7717 or by e-mail at amiddlet@state.lib.la.us

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