Gleaning From the Food of Yesterday: The Era of WWII
Updated: Mar 4, 2020
In a time of crisis, when livelihoods are threatened, the routines which maintain our health are often compromised. This is typically unavoidable and necessary. However, after the crisis is dispelled, it is vital that we re-establish healthy lifestyles rather than settling into a lower standard. Unfortunately, this is exactly what we did not do after the major changes which occurred in our food system during the era of the Second World War.
The year was 1940. The United States had yet to enter WWII, but began to support the Allies’ fight against the Nazis through the Lend-Lease Act. Starving soldiers don’t win wars, so this act provided the food supplies, as well as military supplies, which these countries desperately lacked.
There were two major shifts that occurred in our food industry during this time. The first was agricultural. The farmers were required to produce more and more food with less employees. While this meant a major increase of income for the farmers, it also required them to greatly rely on the government for resources. Before this time, the government had offered a degree of support programs, but it now developed institutionalized regulations. This was just the beginning of a major expansion of the agricultural industry and a new dependency on government funding to succeed. Also, the war introduced to agriculture a new array of chemicals used to produce bombs and poisonous gases. The companies that manufactured these chemicals didn’t want to go out of business at the war’s end and so they saw expanding farm business as the perfect target. By 1952, the FDA approved the use of the about 10,000 new pesticides. With less pests, and eventually less weeds through the use of herbicides, crops could be mass produced.
The second shift in our food industry was a decrease in the quality of our food production. Supply chains were weak, so it was necessary to manufacture foods that would last a long time. Companies like Hormel bought food from farmers and packaged it into new products, such as Spam. Artificial flavors and preservatives increased. This made food cheaper and unnaturally addictive--resulting in higher profits for big industries. And then, once the chemicals were introduced into agriculture, seeds had to be genetically modified in order to survive the pesticides. As a result, the basic means of life, the seed, has become “sterile”; new seeds have to be purchased yearly. The crops are now destructive to our bodies rather than nourishing.
The lesson from this age is that quantity often impacts quality produced. It was necessary to mass produce and preserve food for the war, but after that the poor quality continued because big industries were more concerned about self-preservation and profit than sustainability and health. Food is more than calories in and out of our body. It is mankind's source of vital nutrition which builds healthy cells, organs, systems, and bodies. When nutrition is compromised, as detailed during this era, there are consequences of unprecedented chronic illnesses. We will take a closer look at this in my next article discussing the medical industries’ response to this influx of disease.