The Clean Plate Club: Historic and Contemporary Food Waste

METHANE

PHOTOGRAPH BY MARK THIESSEN, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

 

In 1917, the government, worried about wartime food shortages, passed the Food and Fuel Control Act, giving President Woodrow Wilson the power to “regulate the distribution, export, import, purchase and storage of food.” Wilson used his new mandate to create the U.S. Food Administration under the direction of Herbert Hoover, who – vowing that “Food will win the war” – set about convincing Americans to conserve. Citizens were urged to sign pledge cards, swearing to forgo waste by adopting the “doctrine of the clean plate.”

The food-saving, clean-plate idea was revived in 1947 after World War II, when Harry Truman called upon Americans to curb waste in order to help send food to the starving post-war populace of Europe. Hundreds of elementary schools promptly formed Clean Plate Clubs. Finishing one’s fish sticks became a patriotic duty. The truly dedicated promised to give up eating between meals.

Read the rest on The Plate.

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