World War I in Lawrence: City enjoys potato week

“POTATO WEEK IS LATEST ANTI-GERMAN CAMPAIGN,” announced a headline in the Lawrence Journal-World in early April 1918. “Every potato eaten saves that much wheat,” said State Food Administrator Walter Innes, who had designated April 8-13 as “Potato Week” in Kansas. “Potatoes have all the food values of wheat,” Innes explained. “The success of the war hinges largely on our ability to save wheat.” In preparation of the event, the Journal-World and other newspapers printed recipes and suggestions “if you don’t like your spuds mashed or fried,” urging people to try potatoes in chowder, cake, biscuits, custards, and even souffles. The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce agreed to feature potatoes prominently at their lunchtime meeting that week, using “potatoes in every possible form and [in] a very appetizing menu” arranged by Martha Trinder of the Household Economics department of the junior high school. Trinder and her pupils prepared the luncheon, which included “Cream of Potato Soup with Potato Chips and Wafers,” “Creamed Peas in Potato Nests,” and “Potato Salad with Mayonnaise Dressing.” Roast beef with gravy, “war bread,” coffee, and sweet potato pie were also served.

Potato Week turned out to be a great success statewide, with tuber sales reported to be 400 percent above normal in some areas and many retailers unable to supply the demand. Educational outreach had resulted in “greater knowledge in the use of this cheap food [which] will result in a great saving in wheat…. The only apprehension now existing regarding potatoes is the 1918 crop. People have learned that potatoes are good in bread, in cookies, in muffins and in a hundred other ways. The big question is to supply the demand for next winter.” Families were encouraged to plant late potatoes for home use and were advised that “if they are stored carefully they will keep fairly well.”