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Interpreting the Evidence

Rationing during World War II

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    The Great Depression and WW II (1929 - 1945)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Comprehension

  • Grade Level:

    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School

  • Topics:

    World War II

  • Primary Source Types:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    Southern Tier
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Vestal Central School District, Cafeteria Menu, 1943 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Topic: Civilian life in WWII and Rations 

​​Skills: Finding textual evidence and interpreting a primary source

This document shows the war impacted the supplies and goods available to people in the U.S. and school cafeterias had to deal with food rations and shortages just as families did

 ​​​​Historical Context: Due to the need for supplies overseas, Americans during WWII were both encouraged and required to ration during the war. This included the rationing of gasoline, metals, rubber, and foodstuffs. In response to this mandate, Americans grew victory gardens and were creative in meal planning. The latter is evident in menus from the early 1940s. This cafeteria menu is from the records of the Vestal Central School District and is available from the NYS Archives.

Watch this video from PBS learning media: Rationing and Recycling

Essential Question: What evidence of WWII rationing is evident in primary sources such as a cafeteria menu?

Check for Understanding
In a brief paragraph, describe the term rationing and answer the essential question.

Optional Extension Activity
The following activity could be completed in order to extend students’ thinking and encourage them to make connections:

1.      Research when rationing began and ended during WWII. How long did the people have to live with rationing requirements?

2.      How would Americans in our modern society respond to rationing?