If people have not proper food they soon grow thin. This is
because the fat stored up in their bodies is being used up to feed them.
They can live on it for some time, just as a bear is nourished by the fat in
his body during his long winter's sleep; but by and by, even before the fat
gives out, the protein is called upon. By this time the person is not far
from the point of starvation.
Before the war most of the world got on fairly well for food.
Occasionally there was a famine in one country or another, but other
countries sent ships of provisions or money to buy provisions. In those days
provisions could always be bought somewhere.
Why is the condition of things so different now? Where are the
grain, the meat, the fish, the fats, and the sugar that used to supply
Europe? If a country can raise the money, why can it not buy what it needs?
One answer to these questions is that there is actually less food
in the world; for millions of men who used to produce it were called into
the armies or to work on munitions, so that less food has been raised.
Another answer is that the ground on the Continent which has been fought
over is now unfit for agriculture. Still another is that few countries, if
any, are in the habit of supplying all their own food, and if they are shut
off from their usual places of buying, they are as much at a loss as we
should be if all the provision stores should suddenly disappear. In some of
these countries the people have been so busy manufacturing that they found
it cheaper and easier to import food than to raise it. In others there are
so many people in proportion to the area that sufficient land to raise what
they required could not be spared. Often the soil or the climate is not
adapted to produce what is needed.
Then, too, there is the question of fertilizers. In Europe the soil
has been cultivated for centuries. It will no longer do well without
fertilizers. The nitrates, which are used in fertilizers, are found chiefly
in Chile, and these could not be imported during the war. Work animals have
been seized by the contending armies or killed because there was no feed for
them. As a result of all this, France has raised less than half of the wheat
that she needs for her people. Poor Belgium has almost no wheat, and Italy
only a part of what she needs. Though England has increased her production,
she has raised only one-fourth enough to supply her people.
Even before the war, Austria-Hungary raised only enough wheat for
herself, and had little for her neighbors. As for Germany, she imported part
of her wheat, and even what she has looted from the lands that she has
overrun has not been as much as she requires. Then, too, the crops in these
two countries have not been up to the usual mark.
Before the war England, Ireland, France, Italy, and Belgium
imported 750,000,000 bushels of wheat in the course of a year. Russia and
Roumania were near at hand, both of them fine wheat countries, and a large
quantity came from them. But Roumania was overrun by the Germans, her
farmlands were ruined, and she has no wheat or any other food to send to any
country, or even to break the famine within her own boundaries.
During the war Turkey closed the Bosphorus; that is, she allowed no
ships to pass save those of Germany and Austria, and therefore no wheat
could in any case be brought from Russia to the Allies. Russia is in a
turmoil; the once fertile Ukraine has been in the hands of the Germans; but
even if the whole country were united, many of her own people would still be
hungry, for there is no way to carry food from one part of the country to
another. Russia in Europe is one-fourth larger than all the rest of the
Continent. She has millions of acres of the best wheat land in the world,
but few railroads. However, if the whole land were crisscrossed with
railroads, they would be of little use because of the lack of coal. Russia's
best coal is mined in the extreme south or in Poland, which only the close
of the war released from the hands of the Germans.
Australia and India had hundreds of millions of bushels of wheat.
Argentina can usually export part of hers to Europe, but her 1917 crop was
not so good as usual. Moreover, it is a long way from Australia and India to
Europe, and not so very much nearer from Argentina, and during the war the
ships were needed to transport soldiers. A ship could transport a good many
soldiers from the United States across the Atlantic in the time that it
would take to make a voyage from Australia to England.
The Allies in Europe are lacking meat, for they have lost many of
their cattle. One reason is that in the great need of meat, cattle have been
slaughtered and used as food. Sometimes this was done because there was no
one to care for them. Men who are fighting in the trenches cannot come home
at night to milk the cows and feed them. Another reason is because much land
that has been used for pasture has now been ploughed up in the effort to
raise more grain for the people. Even before the war much fodder was
imported, and now many cattle have had to be killed for the lack of food. In
Belgium and northern France the invading Germans either killed the cattle or
drove them to Germany. Australia and South America would have been glad to
send more beef and mutton, if there had only been some way of providing
ships. The United States and Canada have been sending both meat and wheat to
the extent of their ability.
To lose cattle is of course a great misfortune for grown folk, but
it is particularly bad for the children, since milk is the food that they
especially need, as it gives them protein, sugar, fats, lime, and other
mineral matter, and both kinds of vitamines in abundance. A pint of milk
contains as much protein as two eggs, as much fat as an ordinary serving of
butter, and even more sugar than fat. It also contains lime enough for one
If more fish could be obtained and if people were willing to try
new kinds, it would in some degree take the place of meat. Fish contains
considerable protein, sometimes as much as 22 per cent., and some kinds,
such as shad, mackerel, and herring, contain as much fat as is in some cuts
of meat, such as lean round steak. The waters about England are swarming
with fish, but the country's supply is less than half the usual quantity.
One reason is that nearly all of her steam fishing vessels have been taken
over by the Navy, and the fishermen of military age have been in service.
Another reason is that the North Sea has been so full of mines that it was
almost as dangerous as a battlefield; and still another is that the Germans
were just as ready to sink a tiny fishing craft—even one belonging to a
neutral country—as a large ship. It is estimated that during the first years
of the war, about one-tenth of the food sent to the Allies was destroyed by
submarines. If Kipling should write another "Captains Courageous," he might
tell a thrilling story indeed.
Pork is needed in Europe even more than beef. The humble pig can no
longer be despised, for he has become a highly valued member of society.
Pigs are easy to raise. They are not particular about climate, and as for
food, they will eat almost anything they can get—indeed, the people who eat
the pig are really more particular about his food than the pig himself is,
for of course the nature of his diet affects the quality of the pork, and in
this matter the pig has no concern.
An interesting question has arisen in regard to keeping pigs and
cattle, namely, whether it is better to eat the grain ourselves or to give
it to these animals and then eat them. Protein is valuable, and the pig, for
instance, does not give back in the form of pork nearly so much protein as
was in the grain that he ate; that is, the pig is not an economical machine
for turning grain into meat, and cattle are still less efficient. On the
other hand, in ordinary times more grain is raised than is needed for human
food. Moreover, pigs are not fed on grain alone, but in large part on food
that would not be eaten by people.
Another point in favor of pork is that it contains much fat, and
all the world is in pressing need of fat. Here the question of shipping
comes in. Even if a pig is not an economical machine for making pork, he is
the only variety of machine for that purpose yet discovered, and pork is an
economical food to send across the ocean. When economy in shipping is to be
considered, we must remember that one hundred pounds of pork will take much
less tonnage than would be needed to carry the fodder to raise the hundred
pounds. After all, pigs really do their best for us. Fat, as has been said
before, provides energy; and fried food, even when it does not "soak fat,"
contains a great deal. A doughnut contains from 20 per cent. to 30 per
cent. of fat. The doughnuts that the lassies of the Salvation Army fry for
the soldiers must be remembered with respect, for they have helped to fight
Sugar is a good food to send, for it is concentrated and takes
little space, and if it does not get wet it will keep indefinitely. Before
the war there was a "middle Europe" of sugar beet raising—Belgium, northern
France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and part of Russia—which raised more than
nine-tenths of the beet sugar of the world, and England bought more than
half her supply from this source. France all during the war has continued to
produce some sugar, but she has been able to raise only about one-fourth of
what she generally needs. Java has been ready to furnish sugar and would
gladly furnish it to-day, for she has a large supply on hand; but, as in the
case of Australia, the lack of ships has made it impossible to get the sugar
from there. As soon as ships are available Java will send it to these
countries. France and England and Italy have done their best and will never
cease to do their best, but they need food and must have it.
A little girl once listened to her mother reading a pitiful story
from a paper. As the mother was turning the page, the little girl asked
earnestly, "But mother, what are you going to do about it ?'