Remembering WW2 Rationing during today’s Coronavirus Pandemic


There are still a lot of people out there who were living through and remember World War II very well. Ask anyone who wasn’t in the military, and the three things they will remember the most are: Soldiers coming home, or not coming home; the music along with the camaraderie and patriotism that got us through the war; and rationing.

From flour to tires, the US Government took over the manufacture and distribution of any and all goods that was needed for the war effort. People at home were forced (usually willingly) to go without an abundance of things like meat, gas, grains, dairy and car parts. In order for the government to keep track of what people were using, they issued Ration Books, with a finite number of stamps that were given to the retailer when the goods were purchased.

War ration book and application from 1943

That often meant going without butter, eggs, or wheat flour at a time before store-bought frozen and canned food was the norm, when people were used to baking their own bread, making their own pasta, and cooking fresh meats and vegetables daily. With most of that going to feed the roughly 16 million Americans who fought overseas, people needed to change their daily lives.

At the time of this post, March 23, 2020, we are at the mid-beginning stages of COVID19, aka the Coronavirus, which has already infected 360k people and killed 15,000 worldwide. The US Government started taking the pandemic seriously about a week ago, late but hopefully not too late, and over the past 10 days has gone from declaring the virus “under control” (President Trump), to shutting down almost all retail, restaurants, and other “non essential” businesses across the country. In the past week we have seen grocery stores wiped out of daily essentials like paper products, eggs, and cold medicines. Many areas, including my area of South Florida, have enacted fairly strict no-gathering laws, making it illegal to come together in groups of 10 or more, and going as far as to close beaches, marinas, and even boat ramps.

Yet, we don’t have any rationing. In fact, the government is working to ensure grocery stores and car service centers have the stock they need to keep everyone fed and, if necessary, on the road to deliver services.

War ration stamps for grains. Not sure what the liberty torch stamps were for.

During the War, you would need stamps for sugar, coffee, shoes, you name it. Last week I ordered Kcups of Levazza from Amazon and had them in two days.

The question is: Will we come to the point of rationing, as we did then? Auto makers are already retooling factories to build much-needed respirators. Several trips to the store over the past week yielded one carton of eggs; stores had up signs “one carton per person”. Paper products including napkins are in seriously short supply, even after nearly two weeks of “panic buying”.

With so many businesses closed, and the government directing people to stay home, is it only a matter of time before rationing is inevitable?

Hopefully they will still accept my grain and liberty stamps.

-Tiki Chris P, reporting from the poolside Tiki Bar because there’s no place else to go.

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