Home Front Austerity

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Home Front Austerity


Food on the Australia home front changed to the support the efforts of feeding overseas allied soldier and citizens. The government implemented rationing and launched campaigns encouraging frugality with food within the home, whilst aiming to maintain a high level of nutrition for the citizens to avoid medical costs of an unwell population.(1)

Government campaigns linked the success of the war effort to the eating choices of each Australian. Food was transformed into a munition of war and Australians were encouraged to grow their own vegetables to decrease demand on farmers. Due to the strong link between food choices and public perception,(2) Australians were widely compliant with austerity measures as they wanted to be seen a supporters of the war effort.

These campaigns helped gain cooperation with rationing. In 1942, rationing was introduced to Australians for the first time, restricting the consumption of butter, tea, sugar, and later meat.(3) These were the only officially rationed foods, however due to shortages foods such as eggs, chocolate, and margarine were almost impossible to procure.(4) Rationing was taken very seriously; to live beyond one’s rations or purchase food on the black market was punishable by heavy fines or imprisonment.(5)

Austerity campaigns worked alongside rationing. Newspapers and magazines were saturated with austerity recipes ideas to work around rationing and shortages whilst nourishing the family.(6) Austerity measures saw a fixing of prices for individual items and restaurant menus;(7) food choices were no longer determined by wealth but by availability.

Food on the home front shifted from a free enterprise to one of shift government control. Beyond the visible changes of what and how much could be eaten, food changed psychologically into a war munition, and cooking and eating into combat.

1. Andrea Gaynor, “Digging for Victory,” Memento: National Archives of Australia 34 (2008): 3.
2. Patricia A Crotty. “Culture and Food Choice,” in Food and Nutrition in Australia, ed. Mark L Wahlquist (Melbourne: Thomas Nelson, 1988), 27.
3. H. E. Daw for the Commonwealth of Australia, Rationing in Australia: A Review of the Work of the Commonwealth Rationing Commission June 1942 – December 1944 (Melbourne: Government Printer, 1944), 1-4
4. H. E. Daw, Rationing in Australia, 27.
5. H. E. Daw, Rationing in Australia, 31.
6. Examples seen across the Women’s Weekly Mirror and Austerity recipe competitions across Australian newspapers.
7. Charmaine O’Brien, Flavour of Melbourne: A Culinary Biography (Kent Town: Wakefield Press, 2008) 193-197
And One Continuous Picnic 166