1915, the British government issued a poster to encourage citizens to
“Eat Less Bread.” Far from the early stirrings of the gluten-free
movement or the rise of the Nanny State, there was more compelling
interest in the idea than the promotion of a healthy lifestyle choice.
With the country mobilized for war and few supply ships getting through
to England--not to mention that most farmers and workers had already
been conscripted into military service--it was a move to both promote
food rationing and to rally a flagging, mostly female civilian populace
behind an increasingly demoralizing war effort. Women and other civilians could do
their share For God and Country by consuming less to make sure that the
lads at the front had plenty to eat.
Of course, the poster had a less overt mission: to make people feel good about deprivation--and it worked. The messaging campaign fundamentally altered the context of the food shortages from “Give in to Germany or starve” to “We must do whatever it takes to defeat the enemy.” Civilians willingly tightened their belts and they did feel good about it, channeling the discomfort of family- and self-sacrifice into a patriotic determination that helped the Empire ride out The War to End All Wars.