Each year the American Historical Association hosts a workshop for K-12 educators at our annual meeting. When my colleagues and I began planning for this year’s workshop, we knew that the 100th anniversary of World War I would make a timely subject for the attendees. But rather than focus on more traditional narratives of political and military history in the workshop, we decided instead to explore the history of World War I through the lens of food. This creative approach, we hoped, would help teachers to engage and inspire their students in innovative ways.
Our “Food Will Win the War” workshop was sponsored by the Advanced Placement Program of the College Board and co-organized by the AHA, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and National History Day. For the event we assembled a team of scholars, master teachers, and public historians to address the historical context of the period, demonstrate pedagogical techniques, and share resources available for classroom use.
For the first segment of the workshop, historians Helen Veit (Michigan State University) and Julia Irwin (University of Southern Florida) discussed some of the key issues of World War I such as the American home front, the importance of food and food conservation to the war effort, and the place of humanitarianism and hunger relief in US relations with Europe. Veit and Irwin had been involved with the development of the online exhibition War Fare: A Culinary Exploration of World War I at the National World War I Museum. As part of their presentation, they highlighted some short films they had made with American Food Roots, which were included as part of the exhibition.
The second portion of the workshop included presentations about practical teaching ideas for the classroom. Wendy Eagan (Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda, MD) explained how she incorporated images and materials from the War Fare exhibition into her own AP World History class, demonstrating that she covered a wide range of themes—from politics to gender—by talking to her students about the history of food during World War I. Tim Bailey (Gilder Lehrman Institute) highlighted a “Food Will Win the War” propaganda poster from the Gilder Lehrman Collection and walked attendees through a classroom exercise they could conduct with their own students. Historian and former pastry chef Amanda Moniz (National History Center at the American Historical Association) displayed several recipes from a World War I-era cookbook and explained how students could make these recipes in the classroom. For many students, Moniz noted, cooking can inspire an interest in history in ways that that traditional texts might not.
For the final segment of the workshop Lynne O’Hara (National History Day) shared the National History Day’s World War I resource booklet, which includes dozens of primary sources and lesson modules, which can be edited and adapted to meet the needs of students in any classroom. O’Hara highlighted the lesson plan on food and scarcity during World War I.
Attendees of workshop departed with facsimiles of the “Food Will Win the War” poster, copies of the National History Day resource book, and other materials to use in with their students. A complete recording of the event, including the American Food Roots film segments, can be viewed on the American Historical Association’s YouTube channel.