Immediately after the United States declared war with Germany in April 1917, The American City surveyed its readers to determine what efforts they were taking to support the war. The survey revealed that a great number of them were encouraging residents to turn vacant lots into community gardens in which to grow their own food. The May 1917 edition of the magazine included an article that summarized how cities were “mobilizing unused land and forces” to address food shortages from war-time interruptions in food production and distribution. The editor's note on the article described gardening as “a municipal function of the first importance.”

Known as “war gardens” and “victory gardens,” the practice of turning vacant lots or backyards into vegetable- and fruit-producing plots spread widely with leadership from the National War Garden Commission. Commission President Charles Lathrop Pack wrote in the February 1918 edition that “soldiers of the soil” planted more than 3 million war gardens in 1917 and produced more than $300 million worth of food. A year later, he reported there were 5,285,000 war gardens in the United States in 1918, and he set the goal of doubling that number to help meet the United States' post-war pledge to send 20 million tons of food to Europe in 1919. He suggested that cities offer prizes, organize dinners made from victory garden produce, and employ a garden supervisor or instructor to aid the effort.

Victory gardens reappeared in the pages of The American City during World War II, their number having grown to 20 million in 1943, according to a report in the February 1944 edition about a meeting of the National Victory Garden Institute. Also in that edition, Fred Heuchling, assistant director of the Victory Garden Department and public information service director for the Chicago Park District, offered tips for organizing and supporting victory gardens. He wrote that the gardens had benefits beyond just producing food: “Community gardens everywhere have bred friendliness and wholesome community spirit that strengthen our democratic institutions.”

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