When the U.S. entered the war, President Roosevelt realized there would have to be limits on some things, so he created the Office of Price Administration. These restrictions would prevent people from buying as many of one item as they could, leaving other people with nothing. To prevent people from hoarding things, the government developed rationing rules. Each person in a household was given a ration book with specially numbered stamps inside. The ration books and the color of the stamps changed with each new issue.

Some foods were in short supply in the United States during WWII. Many factories that made food products had to convert part of their operations to making defense items for the war. Some food items such as fats, were needed in making the glycerin that was an important ingredient in explosives. Some foods that were imported from other countries across the ocean were not available because the ships that transported them were liable to be attacked by German or Japanese subs.

When families cooked rationed food like bacon or meat, they were supposed to save the grease in a can ad bring it back to the butcher. The extra glycerin in fat was then used to make explosives. To serve as an incentive, turning in salvaged fats earned you extra ration points.

When the first ration book was issued, only sugar was rationed. By 1943, butter, meat, butter and several canned goods were also included. You were only allowed to use a certain number of stamps per month, but no more. Rationing was a way to make sure that everyone in the country had a fair chance at getting hard to find items. The stamps did not allow people to get the food for free; they were only the permission to buy a certain kind of food.


Food wasn’t the only thing rationed. Gasoline and rubber were rationed also. The United States imported most of its rubber from Asia, and of course the ships transporting it had to cross the Pacific Ocean and risk attack by the Japanese. Rubber was so scarce during the war that a speed limit of 35 miles per hour was enacted. At lower speeds the tires wouldn’t wear out so quickly. Gasoline was rationed partly so people would drive less and help in preserving rubber tires. Gasoline also needed to be conserved so that the armed forces would have all they needed. Each family was given a sticker for the windshield of their car. Most families had an “A’ sticker which allowed them to buy 4 gallons of gas a week.


This site was developed by Carole Parsons, a 5th grade teacher at Millbrook Elementary School. This lesson is part of a unit on WW II for the 5th grade Social Studies classes. Students are also working on performing a play based on the attack on Pearl Harbor, reading a WWII novel, and using extensive PowerPoint presentations to provide additional information to enhance the text.


Ruth Patrick Science Education Center

Aiken County Schools

http://rpsec.usca.edu/Classwork731sp2006/lesson/parsons/rationing.html (February 2006)

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