World War I in Lawrence: Hoard food at your own risk

Wartime food restrictions specified the quantities of certain foods residents were permitted to keep on hand, and people were not hesitant to report friends or neighbors who were suspected of crossing the line.

In March 1918, the Lawrence Journal-World reported that some unnamed person had supplied to Douglas County Food Commissioner Clarence Hall “a list of Eudora residents who are said to have in their possession more than thirty days’ supply of flour. Commissioner Hall was called upon by the federal authorities to investigate the matter and to call to the attention of those whose names were given, that the possession of more than thirty days’ supply of flour at any one time, constitutes hoarding. These parties are called upon to show their patriotic feeling by their future actions with regard to the use of wheat flour substitutes. A letter to each of the parties in question is being sent today by Commissioner Hall, asking for a statement with regard to the facts of the case … The food administration has the authority to requisition any food supplies hoarded in excess of the amount set down in the food regulations.”

Local grocers and bakers, as well as residents, were bound by restrictions regarding ingredient substitutions. Retailers were subject to the “fifty-fifty rule” — for every quantity of wheat flour sold, an equal quantity of substitute, such as cornmeal or potato flour, had to be sold.

“Any grocer who sells white flour without an equal quantity of substitute is endangering our chances of winning the war,” said Walter P. Innes, U.S. Food Administrator for Kansas, adding that “any retailer who persistently violates the rule will have his place closed.”

Innes also pointed out that customers were expected to actually consume the substitutes, saying that anyone who would “buy substitutes and feed them to the chickens or give them to their servants are enemies of this government and of our boys in France.”