Food Rationing

Rationing begins on January 8th, page 1
Great Britain Ministry of Information: Daily Press Notices and Bulletins, No. 14: December 30, 1939
Rationing begins on January 8th, page 2
Great Britain Ministry of Information: Daily Press Notices and Bulletins, No. 14: December 30, 1939
“Your Ration Book”
Food and clothing rationing was instituted in 1940 and continued until 1954. Every man, woman, and child in Britain received a ration book of coupons that were used to purchase rationed items.
“Ration Book”
Issued to H S and Mrs. W M McGregor.
“Dig On for Victory”
Food production poster.
“Dig for Plenty”
Food production poster extolling the benefits of growing one's own nutritious food in a time of shortage.
[Dig for Victory]
Large “Dig for Victory” poster on London Street.
[Weekly Ration for Two People per Week]
On average, one adult’s weekly ration was 113g bacon and ham (about 4 thin slices), one shilling and ten pence worth of meat (about 227g minced beef), 57g butter, 57g cheese, 113g margarine, 113g cooking fat, 3 pints of milk, 227g sugar, 57g tea and 1 egg. Other foods such as canned meat, fish, rice, condensed milk, breakfast cereals, and biscuits, available in limited quantities on a points system. Fresh vegetables and fruit were not rationed but supplies were limited.

Like munitions, the majority of food was imported from abroad with multiple shipments being destroyed by German U-boats before reaching the United Kingdom. Britain could neither depend on the food shipments nor spare the lives of sailors who would be tasked to defend the ships. The government limited the number of ships coming into Britain to protect the supplies but this resulted in severe food shortages. Because of this, the Ministry of Food introduced a food rationing policy in January of 1940. Clothing, soap, fuel, and paper were also rationed. Surprisingly, according to government polling, almost two-thirds of the British people wanted rationing to be introduced, in the hope that it would guarantee a fair share of food for everybody.

Ration books containing coupons were distributed to all men, women, and children as a way to keep track of food supplies and limit the amounts purchased by individuals. These coupons were presented to grocers by customers essentially giving them permission to buy certain foods in limited quantities.

The MOI produced propaganda to convince people that rationing was essential for the country. One of the most famous campaigns was titled 'Dig for Victory.' It encouraged people to use their land to create gardens and to grow vegetables, asking the citizenry to be more self-sufficient in the process. Campaigns such as these again gave residents a stake in the war and a feeling of contribution to the war effort. After the war, the UK was bankrupt and could not ramp up food imports until, in 1954, rationing finally ended.