America was the land of plenty, but World War II challenged our ability to grow and distribute enough food. Farmers and farm laborers left for the military or to higher paying jobs, leading to a severe farm labor shortage. Transportation shortages made it hard to harvest and move fruits and vegetables to market.
At the same time, the United States was providing food to our allies, hoping to prevent their collapse. About 25 percent of total food production in 1943 went to the armed forces and to our allies, with each soldier needing a ton of food a year.
Nearly 20 million Americans answered the call.
To boost production and ease the strain on the transportation system, Victory Gardens "sprouted" across the country as many Americans joined the patriotic cause. They planted gardens in backyards, empty lots and even city rooftops.
Families were encouraged to can their own vegetables to save commercial canned goods for the troops. In 1943, families bought 315,000 pressure cookers (used in the process of canning), compared to 66,000 in 1942.
Committees of civilians set up local Victory Garden programs across the country. A guide for these committees, endorsed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, stated that, “The beautification of the home and community by gardening provides healthful physical exercise, recreation, definite release from war stress and strain.”
By 1945, an estimated 20 million Victory Gardens produced approximately 40 percent of America's vegetables