Eating Habits in America in the 1900s

immigration

During the 1900s there were many changes to the foods that Americans ate in comparison to the Victorian era.  Many factors influenced these changes.  Here is an overview of the factors that influenced the food that was eaten in America during the 1900s.

Immigration

There was a great deal of immigration of people from all over the globe during this period.  They introduced new concepts, flavours, spices and ingredients that were not commonly used in American cooking or were never used. Majority of these immigrants moved to urban areas of America and some chose to set up businesses, often restaurants.  This brought multi-cultural food to the general public. For example, during the early twentieth century, many people came from Italy to America.  In 1905 in New York City, the first ever Italian Pizzeria was opened. 

Government Intervention

In 1906, the US government introduced the Food and Drugs Act.  This meant that all meat products were inspected as part of Federal Law.  Also, adulterated products could not be manufactured, sold or transported in America.

Home Economics Education

During the Victorian era, there was a huge push on educating young women in home economics and nutrition science, with the aim of improving people’s knowledge of health and nutrition.  This education continued into the early twentieth century and influenced ideas about food preparation, the use of ingredients and food safety. Many women who had studied the subject at school went out into the community to work closely with families, particularly those who were poor, to share their knowledge and educate others. 

Science and Technology

One of the greatest factors that changed the ways that Americans ate between 1900 and 1910 was the innovations of science and technology.  It was no longer necessary to eat only seasonal food as it could now be shipped in from other areas or grown in America.  The advances came in the form of increased transportation, better food preservation and improved food storage options.  The introduction of electricity in urban homes around this time also influenced how people stored and prepared their meals.

Business Expansion

During the 1900’s, the American market became flooded with new businesses and brands that were supplying food for the masses.  Many of these came in the form of tinned/ canned or dried foods.  Major names that came into play during this era, and are still well known today, include Quaker Oats and Campbell’s.

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