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Sacrifice In Times Of Crisis

Courtesy of National Archives
American civilians only had access to six teaspoons of sugar a day during World War II, while the average American today consumes 22 teaspoons. Soldiers were provided more, but at the expense of civilians at home. Above is a sugar rationing line.

While schools are closed, we're creating a series of "Talk of Iowa" episodes that will be fun and educational for learners of all ages.Every Tuesday, we'll learn about Iowa wildlife, and every Thursday, we'll learn about Iowa history.

Throughout history, during times of crisis, Americans have been asked to make sacrifices for the greater good. For generations, politicans and community leaders have called upon citizens to adjust their everyday lives to give up products, services or adjust their lifestyles. For example, during the First World War, Americans believed that "food would win the war," as national wheatless Wednesdays and meatless Mondays were a popular movement to conserve food for soliders on the European frontlines.

Credit Courtesy of Herbert Hoover Presidential Library
The term "Hooverize" refers to people saving and sparing food during the First World War.

During this episode of Talk of Iowa, historians Tim Walch, Leo Landis and Lisa Ossian walk us through periods in Iowa and American history when people were asked to make these kinds of sacrifices, the impact of various movements and how our cultural approach to sacrifice has changed over time. Walch is the director emeritius at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, Landis is the State Curator at the State Historical Society of Iowa and Ossian is a professor of history at William Penn University.

Vocabulary & terms:

  • Volunteerism: the act or practice of doing volunteer work in community service
  • Rationing: a food allowance for one day; a share as especially determined by supply
  • U.S. Sanitary Commission: a private relief agency to support sick and wounded soliders of the United States Army during the American Civil War
  • Commission for Relief in Belgium: an international organization that arranged for the supply of food to German-occupied Belgium and northern France during the First World War

Discussion questions and activities: 

  • Why did the federal government try to limit the consumption of wheat, meat, sugars and other types of food during war time?
  • How could the federal government encourage certain lifestyle changes in our society today? Do you think they would be successful? Why or why not?
  • Ask your parents or grandparents about a time in their lives when they were asked to make sacrifices for the greater good.
  • Click HEREto view some recipes used to conserve food for troops during World War I. If you have the ingredients, give it a try! Please shop responsibly.
Rick Brewer was a producer for IPR's Talk of Iowa and River to River
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa