Michael Pollan, famous for The Omnivore’s Dilemma among many other books, wrote Food Rules to provide a primer for people who want to eat in a way that is more sustainable – personally, environmentally, socially, and even economically. But believe it or not, the United States government had beat him to it nearly a century earlier!
The Food and Fuel Control Act of 1917 was a wartime emergency measure that President Wilson pushed for in the midst of World War I. It intended to conserve resources at home so that more supplies could be sent to troops in Europe. Along with cultivating home “victory gardens,” the nation’s citizens were encouraged to practice “meatless Tuesdays,” “sweetless Saturdays,” and “wheatless” Mondays and Wednesdays. The act was repealed in 1921.
It’s interesting, though, and a little eerie that what the government was proposing in 1917 should so closely echo what many parts of the environmental movement strive for today: buying local. Reducing consumption of meat, wheat, and processed sugars. Wasting less and making use of what you have. Even though it was only an emergency wartime act, it’s worth remembering that at one point, our government had its head on straight when it came to food.
Try out these century-old “food rules” this week for some WWI-era resilience!