Rationing Means a Fair Share for All of Us, 1943 Office of Price Administration poster promoting conservation of resources during World War II.
During World War II, the United States government implemented a rationing program that limited the amount of specified scarce products that civilians were allowed to purchase. The government did this to ensure that United States soldiers had the items necessary to defeat the country's enemies, to prevent price-gouging, and also to limit the hoarding of goods by the American people.
Rationing officially began in the Spring of 1942, with the federal government's implementation of the Food Rationing Program. The program underwent numerous changes during the course of the war, and it eventually came to include sugar, meats, butter, oils, cheese, juices, dry beans, soups, baby food, ketchup, and bottled, canned, and frozen fruits and vegetables. Each member of a family received a "War Ration Book," which entitled the person to purchase a certain amount of food. A person's age determined the amount of food that he or she could purchase.
Besides food, the federal government rationed other items. Clothing, coffee, gasoline, tires, and shoes, among other things, faced rationing. The government based gasoline and tires on the distance a person had to travel to his or her job. Generally, the person received just enough gasoline each week to report to work and to return home. After traveling to work, rarely would there be enough gasoline left for the person to travel any great distances.
Most Americans, including many Ohioans, accepted rationing as necessary to help the United States attain victory in World War II. Preferring to grow their own food rather than purchasing rationed items at the store, many people began to grow victory gardens. Americans became healthier as meat and fat became smaller staples in the people's diets due to shortages. However not all Americans liked rationing. Some people sought to make money by selling rationed goods on the black market. People who did not have stamps to purchase a product could buy rationed items illegally, especially tires, clothing, and gasoline, on the black market, although they usually had to pay exorbitant prices to do so. Nevertheless, rationing was overwhelmingly successful and helped the United States defeat Germany, Italy, and Japan in World War II.