Date of Award

1-1-2012

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Lawrence B Glickman

Abstract

This thesis examines the way in which the federal government, primarily through the United States Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Home Economics, and the Cooperative Extension Services' state-run home demonstration programs, attempted to change foodways in the rural South during the Great Depression under the New Deal government. It argues that the federal government became more broadly and actively involved in the lives of Southern farm women, but that these women, in their interests, needs, and personal preferences, shaped the federal program for themselves. The intermediaries between the federal initiatives and the women are key to the story. County home demonstration agents interacted directly with the women and adapted their methods to appeal to their local target groups.

The essay looks first at food historiography relevant to the topic, its contributions and the questions yet unanswered. It then explains why the government was interested in changing foodways, the socioeconomic state of the South that caused malnutrition to flourish, and the way in which the federal government established and maintained authority to instruct its citizens how to eat. An examination how the federal government stepped in to supplement inadequate state programming to assist children in need is then given as a condensed example of what the government aimed to do throughout the entire South. Strategy and tactics used by government agents and various media to convince women to change how and what they cooked for their families are explained. This essay concludes with a look at the specific consumption patterns targeted for change and how women selectively chose changes to adopt.

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