Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
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The mess halls continued to operate during 1943-45 much as they had (described in Chapter 10) prior to the violence that empted in the center on December 6, 1942. By 1945, the average staff for a mess hall serving 300 evacuees consisted of a chef who supervised a time checker, seven waitresses, three cooks, 4 cook's helpers, and 11 kitchen helpers. Meals averaged from 2,800 to 3,500 calories per day per person, including men, women, and children. The supply of fresh vegetables from the center's farm was adequate and the variety considerable, especially during the summer months.

Except during short periods when ration-point values were very low, meat consumption at Manzanar remained approximately at the level allowed by rationing. Efforts to provide palatable foods were undertaken by the evacuee steward who prepared menus which the Chief Project Steward Joseph R. Winchester approved. A considerable part of the menu consisted of rice, sukiyaki, miso, tofu, chop suey, chow mein, shoyu sauce, and various pickled vegetables.

Menus for a typical mid-week day indicate that meals served at Manzanar were generally wholesome and well-balanced, if not always the type preferred by all evacuees. On Wednesday, January 6, 1943, for instance, the following meals were served (quantities to serve 100 persons):

    1/2 grapefruit50 each
    Corn Flakes, 1 ounce Ind.100 packages
    Bacon15 pounds
    Hot Cakes
        Flour12 pounds
        Lard1 pound
        Baking Powder12 ounces
        Salt3 ounces
        Milk6 cans
    Syrup1 gallon
    Coffee2.8 pounds
    Sugar4 pounds
    Milk, fresh10 1/2 quarts
    Milk, evaporated8 cans
    Kidney bean salad
        Kidney Beans10 pounds
        Onions4 pounds
        Mustard (prepared)2 ounces
        Mayonnaise1 pint
        Vinegar1/2 pint
        Lettuce2 heads
        Salt-Pepper to taste
    Veal Fricassee and Dumplings
    Veal25 pounds
    Lard1 pound
    Flour3 pounds
    Milk, evaporated4 cans
    Salt-Pepper to taste
        Flour12 pounds
        Lard11/2 pounds
        Baking Powder4 ounces
        Milk4 cans
        Salt to taste
    String Beans, #104 cans
    Rice40 pounds
    Tea8 ounces
    Split Pea
    Dried Peas5 pounds
    Soup Stock7 gallons
    Salt to taste [50]

On holidays, special meals were served in the center's mess halls. "American" menus were generally used on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but "a full Japanese meal" was served on New Year's Day, because it was "a Japanese holiday of great importance." On January 1, 1944, for instance, the menu consisted of the following types and quantities of food (quantities to serve 100 people):

    Lima beans16 pounds
    Sugar10 pounds
    Season to taste
    Eggs100 each
    Milk1 quart
    Sugar1 1/2 pounds
    Salt3 ounces
    Season to taste
    Chicken70 pounds
    Shoyu20 quarts
    Sugar1/2 pound
    Season to taste
    Fresh orange half50 pounds
    Season to taste
    Takenoko8 cans
    Fuki4 cans
    Carrots15 pounds
    Daikon15 pounds
    Goboo15 pounds
    Pork5 pounds
    Potato, small10 pounds
    Shoyu2 quarts
    Sugar1/2 pound
    Season to taste
    Sea weed5 pounds
    Daikon20 pounds
    Carrots10 pounds
    Ajinomoto2 ounces
    Sugar1/2 pound
    Rice20 pounds
    Green peas #101 can
    Celery5 pounds
    Carrots5 pounds
    Goboo5 pounds
    Oboro Ebi1/2 pound
    Vinegar2 pints
    Salt4 ounces
    Ajinomoto to taste
    Omochi40 pounds
    Carrots2 pounds
    Daikon2 pounds
    Goboo2 pounds
    Spinach25 pounds
    Ajinomoto2 ounces
    Chicken stock4 gallons
    Season to taste
Japanese pickles15 pounds
Hot tea8 ounces

Meals were served "cafeteria style" in the mess halls — a system that many evacuees objected to. One evacuee mother, for instance, complained that "we line up, receive our food all dumped on one plate, scramble for seats, and dash to the back with the dirty dishes when we are through eating." While the evacuees ate, "the dishwashers" kept "up such a constant clatter of dishes, and making so much noise, one can hardly think, let alone eat, decently." The "biggest problem" however, was "the harm this system" was "doing to our children." The "constant change of faces at meal-times" was upsetting to young children, "especially the tiny tots who are just beginning to learn to eat and speak properly." One of the distractions was "the noise and the sight of people walking back and forth." As the evacuees were served in lines, the ones "at the head of the line" were "served first and finish first." If we "are unfortunate enough to sit at a table where the early diners are, they gobble down their food, jump up, dash to the back to dispose of dirty dishes, leaving space at the table for other diners, thus making two different sets of people the child will be interested in." The table etiquette of the children was "atrocious." Young children "6 and 7 years of age, with no supervision from older folks, gang together at one table, laughing and talking loudly, eating sloppily, with no though [sic] of manners." If "they could only eat with their families, they could be made to eat properly, out of shame, by their older brothers and sisters, if not by their parents." "I know many children don't get enough to eat because of this." At "the rate they are going, by the time they get outside they will be little savages." "Not only are the children of that age becoming unmanageable, but even children 2, 3 and 4 are becoming like that."

The "whole system," according to this evacuee, seemed to "be harming people." Even if the lines had to be maintained because of a lack of workers, "tables should be assigned each family, so that there won't be this mad scramble for seats, and so that the family may be united at mealtime," If possible the lines should be "eliminated, because of the psychological effect it has on many people." Efforts "should be made to maintain a normal atmosphere," because lining "up for meals, getting food slopped at us all on one plate is making many feel like hobos and tramps waiting in a breadline for a handout." [51]

As the war continued, rationing needs for the center's mess halls were processed according to "a definite plan." Several days before the beginning of each two-month period, Winchester notified the Washington office of the estimated requirements for ration points. These estimates were based on the anticipated camp population and conformed to allocations made to families throughout the country. The allocation for Manzanar, however, was "slightly less than that ordinarily made to institutions at large."

The Washington office obtained ration points from the Office of Price Administration. Checks for ration points were then mailed to the project. They were deposited on receipt and then drawn upon as required. As with money, points were obligated as requisitions were written, even though final payment was not granted until goods were received.

Within the center, it was necessary to issue food on the basis of actual population and not on the anticipated population upon which points were originally allocated. Shortages or overages were then adjusted at the beginning of the next period. Regulations of the Office of Price Administration allowed a 45-day advance food supply to be carried at the center.

At the beginning of each week, the population count in the center was obtained from the statistics section Rationed food was then issued in accordance with this figure.

Between August 1942 and September 1945, the ration program for the center allotted 559,145 points, of which 550,073 were used and 9,072 were saved. From March 1943 to August 1945, the ration program for processed food allotted 9,566,646 points to Manzanar, of which 6,548,368 were used and 3,018,278 were saved. Between April 1943 and September 1945, the ration program for meats, fats, and cheese amounted to 11,491,258 points, of which 9,591,581 were used and 1,899,677 were saved.

Chief Project Steward Winchester served as chairman of the Manzanar panel of the Lone Pine Ration Board. He also directed an evacuee-staffed office which issued shoe stamps for resident evacuees. Ration books, and occasionally, tire and gasoline coupons were issued for relocating evacuees.

By February 1, 1945, the mess section began to close mess halls as the center's population declined. By August 1, only 18 mess halls remained in operation.

As the number of people served in a single mess hall was reduced to approximately 125, that mess hall was closed and the residents were sent to another within the group of four blocks set off by firebreaks. As each kitchen closed, its remaining food stock was distributed to other kitchens. This process continued until only one mess hall in each four continued to operate. During the last weeks of the center's operation, only one mess hall in eight, then one in 16, continued to operate. Two days before the last evacuee left the center on November 21, one of the last two mess halls was closed, the other being left to service the few residents who remained. Two evacuee chefs were asked to remain until the last days. Otherwise, no special provision was made and mess hall help was obtained when, and as, available. Because of labor shortages, 75 percent of the work in the center's mess halls was performed by voluntary part-time workers during the final weeks of the camp's operation.

During the entire operation of the relocation center, approximately 28,790,221 meals were served to evacuees at an average cost of 12 2/3 cents per meal (or 35 1/4 cents per day) and a total cost of $3,384,749.02. Only two minor instances of food poisoning occurred. According to Winchester, feeding "some 10,000 persons — some of whom had American food standards and tastes, others of whom held to their Japanese standards and tastes — was accomplished according to satisfactory nutritional standards and was held well within the cost limits set by the Government." [52]

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002