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April 8, 2015 / Rick Swann

VIctory Garden Posters

Our school garden

The end of the 19th century in this country was a time of increased urbanization. People were leaving their small farms and moving to cities to find work in a rapidly industrializing nation. Some educators worried that urban areas were no place for children. School gardens were developed to: foster better nutritional habits; teach responsibility and character building; and to allow urban children to connect with nature.

Then the Great War broke out. These same educators saw an opportunity to nationalize a school garden curriculum—the country’s first national curriculum, by the way. They created the U.S. School Garden Army as a way to educate children as well as make up for the food production needed with the lack of crops being grown in war-torn Europe. Several million school children participated in the program before it lost funding after the Armistice.

At its zenith in Seattle Schools, 15 tons of seed potatoes and 10,000 packets of seeds were ordered for the School Garden Army volunteers who grew $100,000 worth of produce. Adjusted for inflation that’s $1,325,000 worth of produce in 2012 dollars.

People believe that the World War II “Food for Freedom” gardening campaign was so successful (40% of all fruits and vegetables consumed during this time was produced in the 21 million Victory Gardens leading to the highest percentage of fruits and vegetables in our diet in recent times) because so many of the adults participating in the program had belonged to the U.S. School Garden Army during World War I and immediately saw growing food as a way to support the war effort.

One of the best things about the school and community created in the two wars were the colorful posters encouraging them. Poet Tom Delmore sent me this link to a poster slide show: http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/propaganda-art-for-wwii-victory-gardens/

A great thing to do with kid is have them make their own posters about possible community responses to make the world a better place. Some great examples can be found at Victory Garden of Tomorrow: http://www.victorygardenoftomorrow.com

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