The U.S. Food Administration was created during World War I when President Wilson issued Executive Order 2679-A. Its job was to

  1. assure the supply, distribution, and conservation of food during the war,
  2. facilitate transportation of food and prevent monopolies and hoarding, and
  3. maintain governmental power over foods by using voluntary agreements and a licensing system.

Herbert Hoover, former head of the Belgian Relief Organization, lobbied for and won the job of administrator of the Food Administration. The Lever Act had given the President power to regulate the distribution, export, import, purchase, and storage of food. Wilson passed that power on to Hoover. As head of the U.S. Food Administration, Hoover became a "food dictator." To succeed, Hoover designed an effort that would appeal to the American sense of volunteerism and avoid coercion. He called for patriotism and sacrifices that would increase production and decrease food consumption. "Food," Hoover and the administration proclaimed, "will win the war."

While Hoover preferred the emphasis on the "spirit of self sacrifice," he also had authority to coerce. He set wheat prices and bought and distributed wheat. Coercion plus volunteerism produced results. By 1918 the United States was exporting three times as much breadstuffs, meat, and sugar as it had before the war.

To achieve these results, the Food Administration combined an emphasis on patriotism with the lure of advertising created by its own Advertising Section. This section produced a wealth of posters for both outdoor and indoor display All of these posters, now part of Record Group 4, the Records of the U.S. Food Administration, testify to the government’s intent to mobilize the food effort during World War I. An executive order of August 21, 1920, terminated the remaining branches of the U.S. Food Administration.

Teaching Suggestion:

Find a color version of this poster online in the National Archives Archival Research Catalog (ARC) database (ARC # 512685), and share it with students. Ask them to identify the countries represented by the flags in the poster. Using their textbook and library resources, ask students to answer the following questions:

Review the circumstances surrounding Our Documents #60, Zimmermann Telegram, 1917, and #61, Joint Address to Congress Leading to a Declaration of War Against Germany, 1917. Lead a class discussion about the role of alliances in World War I, and assign students to create their own poster illustrating the alliances.