‘When our men are fighting, our food is fighting’. ‘Our food is ammunition, so don’t waste it’. ‘Clean your plate…there’s no food to waste’. These are just some of the punchy, morale-boosting slogans that adorned the patriotic and motivational governmental posters, disseminated during World War One and World War Two.
During the war, an age before instantaneous networked communications and sophisticated technology, print media and posters were the main medium for delivering visual information and propaganda – whether it was a call to support our troops in battle, advice on what to do in response to an attack, or productive ways to live more frugally in times of stark austerity – these persuasive and sometimes provocative posters, were a positive tool in galvanising action, stoking support and emboldening citizens in these tumultuous times.
One pressing topic was food, particularly waste and rationing. In both the United Kingdom and the United States, posters were created by both the Ministry of Information and the United States Food Administration, urging people to change their attitudes and behaviour towards waste and food.
Bold, inspirational illustrations coupled with ardent messages were deployed to encourage citizens at home to economise, save and salvage. Whether is was to ‘dig to victory and grow your own vegetables’ or to ‘buy wisely, cook carefully and eat it all’, these posters provocatively instilled an ethos of patriotism, unity and resourcefulness. Everyone had an important part to play to ‘win the war’.
Even though some of these posters are slightly outmoded and sexist, the food saving messages have preserved their potency and are still relevant today. We should heed their powerful sentiments. Even though we are currently not engaged in an international war to the tremendous scale of the World Wars, we are however amidst a global food crisis: 30 per cent of all food is thrown away and wasted, while hunger blights billions.
Small differences contribute to bigger change, and these posters subscribe to this progressive mentality. We should be inspired by these calls to action from the past and apply these teachings of food conservation and waste wisdom to modern life, before its too late.
Keep calm and watch your waste.