During World War I and World War II, many countries encouraged their citizens to grow gardens, often called “Victory Gardens.” This relieved some of the burden on the public food supply and was marketed as a way to help the war efforts. In fact, some sources report that 41% of the food Americans consumed during these times was grown in these home gardens.
Vacant lots and public parks became fields of vegetables and many people grew beets, swiss chard, tomatoes, and lettuce in their front yards or on rooftops.
The victory garden was a practical way to improve food security on the home front. I think it’s time to bring them back in fashion!
Why Grow a Victory Garden
It’s no longer World War II, but today we face a different kind of battle. Current events remind us all too clearly that access to fresh, healthy, local food is one of the most important aspects of daily life.
Even when we are not facing a global crisis, our food system is at risk… and putting us at risk.
Of course, I’m talking about our food supply and the state of health in our country. We aren’t facing an enemy armed with rifles, but a much smaller invader that we often willingly consume and feed our children.
Most sources agree that the majority of us are not consuming enough vegetables and fruits. In fact, the CDC reported that only 27% of us are consuming the recommended amount of vegetables per day (and many experts claim that the recommended amounts are lower than they should be anyway!)
Much of our food is a source of inflammatory substances like polyunsaturated oils, sugar, and processed grains. We consume sugar to the tune of over 100 pounds per person per year and recent studies show that many of us are lacking in the basic vitamins and minerals we need for basic health.
Here’s thing: We vote with our dollars, and our actions. We can claim “victory” over over current food trends in the United States by growing our own gardens.
Bonus: Our kids are much more likely to grow up loving fresh vegetables if they eat them right off a plant that they helped to grow!
The New Battle: Rising Food Prices
We also face the problem of rising food costs. Prices are rising on all types of foods. We all know too well that organic vegetables and fruits and other “healthy” products are often especially pricey. In fact, even in the comments on this blog, the most common reason cited for not eating enough vegetables or choosing organic options is the prohibitive cost.
There are strategies for eating real food on a budget, but it’s an uphill battle. Sadly, this problem doesn’t seem likely to get better any time soon. Food prices are expected to continue to rise in the coming years and choosing to buy organic produce will only get more difficult.
It’s liberating to discover that you can grow your own organic lettuce, spinach, and kale in your own backyard (rather than buying week-old lettuce shipped in plastic from across the country!).
If starting a garden isn’t possible for you, find and support your local farmers and farmer’s markets. They can do the work for you!
Victory Gardens: A Solution to Both Problems
I’ve said before that there is much wisdom we can learn from older generations, and their knowledge of food production is no exception. Though about 40% of U.S. households grow gardens of some kind, increasing this number could address both rising food costs and increasing health issues.
Having a garden provides other benefits as well!
Statistically, gardeners live longer and there are many potential reasons for this.