Consumers are Complaining – 1917

“Consumers are complaining” – (PIP #23)

By Louise Peloquin

Food prices, shortages, rationing, accessibility and distribution have always made the news. Media outlets cover the very same topics today.

As the editorial below demonstrates, L.-A. Biron and his readership were impacted by food accessibility and the allegedly inefficient administrative management thereof during World War I.

L’Etoile – July 24, 1917

Consumers are complaining

     American consumers are rather unhappy, to use a euphemism, because the price of food products has not decreased despite their applying the economic method recommended by Mr. Herbert Hoover, food administrator. (1)

     In order to remedy the problem, the commission of National Defence Societies advises organizing a campaign involving the public exerting pressure to obtain the desired result.

     In an open letter, the commission says:

     “The mass of the American people was urged by Mr. Hoover to do without meats and flour certain days of the week, to refrain from buying bread more than once a day and to to take home oneself what one has bought at the grocer’s and at the butcher’s.

     To this call we respond that, because of the excessively high prices of meat, for a long time already, thousands of families have done without it, not only one day, but several days a week.

     Everywhere in the country, people have loyally acquiesced to the call to buy bread only once a day, and not to ask for warm bread, thus resulting in considerable savings of fuel and flour which should lead to a reduction in production costs. 

     However, all the while following the food administrator’s wise advice, people are astonished to note that the price of bread is just as high or even higher than before. It would appear that neither the government nor the public nor anyone, except for the flour speculators and, in certain cases, the bakers, have received any benefit from the food economy campaign instituted by Mr. Hoover.

     During the spring, we were urged to sow seeds in our gardens and our backyards and in all empty, non-constructed parcels of land, something which has largely been done. We have never sowed as many vegetables as we have this year. However, go buy some at the grocery stores and you will notice that the prices of farm products have never been so high.

     It was also observed that certain seed vendors have taken advantage of the opportunity to raise their prices as much as possible.

     We observed a similar hike in the price of flags when it became patriotic to deploy one on the façade of our dwellings.” (2)  

     And this has gone on since the beginning of the War, with a notable augmentation each year. Hence, everything is more expensive this year than in July 1916. (3) How will next year be?

     The bill on food has finally been adopted by the Senate but since it has undergone many amendments, it will now be necessary for the two chambers of Congress to confer and consecrate precious time in the hope of reaching an agreement and speaking with one voice. In the meantime, the speculators continue their exploitation of the people with unparalleled enthusiasm, and if, by chance, the law on food were not yet enforced at harvest time, the monopolizers would get hold of the products of the soil and we would have another year to suffer from a fake shortage created by the manipulators who rack up millions in no time at our expense.

         The government has given the food speculators free rein too long. As with our army, our economic preparation is three years behind. Today we endure the effects of incredible incompetence among our leaders. (4)


1) PIP #13, posted on January 2, 2024, provides the translation of an article on food conservation recommendations in 1917.

2) PIP #20, posted on February 20, 2024, speaks about these flags and gives the example of Bob Vandenbulcke’s father Emile who worked at L’Etoile.

3) Examples of the grocery store food prices can be found in PIP #7, posted on November 7, 2023:

4) Translation by Louise Peloquin.

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