World War I: Italian Home Front--American Food Relief

American World War I food aid Italy
Figure 1.--: Here an American Red Cross officer is pictured with two children at Belluno, Italy. Belluno is a town and province in the Veneto region of northern Italy close to the froint lines. The photograph was probably taken in 1917 or 18. Source: American National Red Cross Collection. Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-90874

American began to provide food aid to Europe soon after the war began. What began as a small private operation turned into a major national effort conducted by the The United States Food Administration (USFA). first such effort was to prevent starvation in Belgium. The German Army which occupied most of Belgium, seized control of the food stocks in the country. The United States during and after the War would privide food assistance that saved millions of Europeans. This included affter the War both Germany and the Soviet Union. We do not have many details yet on American food assistance to Italy. Italy was a largely agricultural country with some industry in the north. Despite having a largely agricultural economy, Italy was not self sufficent in food production. Once Italy entered the war on the allied side, Italian shipping became U-boat targets. And farm laborers were concripted for the military, sunstantially reducing the rural work force affecting both yields and harvests. This created a growing need for food from overseas. On the previous hime front page you can see food being distrubuted by the American Red Cross at a Croce Rossa Americana / Cucina Economica -- meaning American Red Cross Economic (free or inexpensive) Kitchen. Here you see an unidentified American Red Cross worker in Belluno during 1917-18 (figure 1). The Red Cross was aprivate charity, non-governmental organization (NGO) in modern parlance. The food it distributed, however, came primarily from the U.S. Government USFA. In addition to American Government programs, there was also funds collected in Italian emigrant communities to assist needy Italians. Italians were one of the largest immigrant group at the time, with many people still having close ties to family and friends and thus a strong desire to help.


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Created: 8:04 PM 1/27/2009
Last updated: 11:31 AM 1/25/2016