Rationing was a form of price control often carried out to prevent inflation and extreme shortage of everyday commodities during a war. During war, rationing was the only way to make sure everyone, including the rich, got their fair share. It was introduced to avoid public anger with shortages and not to allow only the wealthy to purchase commodities. Both the Canadian and American governments took up measures to ration everyday items from food to rubber to clothing hence everyone was affected and rationing meant sacrifices for all.

Rationing in CanadaRationing in the USA
The Wartime Prices and Trade Board (WPTB), founded in 1939 and chaired by Donald Gordon, regulated the supply of key commodities and rationing.In the spring of 1942, the Food Rationing Program was set into motion.
Rationing was introduces in 1942. 250g of sugar, 250g of butter, 30g tea, 115g coffee and 1 kg of meat were rationed per person per week. Gasoline was rationed in April 1942Sugar shortages began as early as Dec. 1941 as imports from Philippines stopped coming. Sugar rationing took effect in May 1943 with the distribution of “Sugar Buying Cards.” Registration usually took place in local schools.
More than 11 million coupons were handed out and rationing became a part of Canadian lifeCoupons were distributed based on family size, and the coupon book allowed the holder to buy a specified amount. Food, rationing encompassed clothing, shoes, coffee, gasoline, tires, and fuel.
Women’s groups taught classes on how to cook nourishing home meals with few supplies. ie: meatless Mondays and wheat less Wednesdays.Others planted “Victory Gardens” to conserve food. For a small investment in soil, seed and time, families could enjoy fresh vegetables for months. By 1945, an estimated 20 million victory gardens produced approximately 40 percent of America’s vegetables.
These groups also ran huge salvage campaigns under “dig in and dig out the scrap”. They salvaged paper, iron, aluminum, edible fats, bottles and even meat bones which were used for aircraft glue and milkweed for life preserves.If each American family bought one less tin can a week, the nation would save 2,500 tons of tin and 1,900 tons of steel, which in turn could produce 5000 tanks or 38 liberty ships
Everyone was given a book of 66 coupons to use to buy new clothes for one year. For example, a men’s shirt cost 16 coupons. This reduced to 48 coupons in 1942 and 36 in 1943.

By mid 1941- silk was no longer available since it was used as the material for parachutes. Therefore, women rushed to purchase all the silk stockings available.[1]

The iron in one old shovel could be converted into four hand grenades.

Razor blades contained steel that could be recycled and turned into machine guns. Old lipstick containers contained brass that could be reused in cartridges

Old lipstick containers contained brass that could be reused in cartridges. In June 1942, there was a rubber shortage, the president asked people at home to collect “old tires, old rubber coats, old garden hoses, bathing caps, gloves—whatever you have made of rubber”[2]

Similarities and differences.

Both Canada and the US imposed rationing on almost every thing including butter, sugar, rubber, clothing and gasoline. The food rationing in Canada was better than in the US since the rationing was per person per week instead of per family. Both countries had government administrations to coordinate the rationings. The Wartime Prices and Trade Board in Canada regulated prices and rationing while in the US, the rationing program was established in 1942. Since Canada and the US were tied so closely in transcontinental trading and assisted the Allied cause, both countries rationed and salvaged similar items.


[1] Garfield Newman, Bob Aitken, Dianne Eaton, Dick Holland, John Montgomery and Sonia Riddock. Canada: A Nation Unfolding (Toronto: McMillan Press, 2000) 260.

[2] Allan M. Winkler. Home Front USA: America during World War II (Illinois: Harlan Davidson Inc, 2000) 101.

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