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Everyday Life - Why was rationing introduced? Main page

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After war was declared in September 1939, the British government had to cut down on the amount of food it brought in from abroad as German submarines started bombing British supply ships. There was a worry that this would lead to shortages of food supplies in the shops and very high prices for what was left, making it very difficult for a lot of people to get enough to eat.

Rationing of food was introduced in January 1940. Everybody was issued with a ration book. This contained coupons that had to be handed in to the shops every time rationed food was bought. As well as the basic ration everybody had 16 coupons each month that they could spend on what they wished.

This made sure that everyone was able to buy and eat the basic food necessary to keep them fit and healthy. Bacon, butter and sugar were among the first things to be rationed. Some foods such as potatoes, fruit and fish were not rationed. People were able to buy these things, provided they could afford them and there were supplies in the shops.

The government tried to encourage people to grow their own food at home. The 'Dig for Victory' campaign, started in October 1939, was one of the most famous of the war. It encouraged people to use every spare piece of land, including their gardens, to grow vegetables.

You can find more information on the Holnet website London at War 1939 - 1945