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Contesting Famine: Hunger and Nutrition in Occupied Japan, 1945-1952

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This article analyzes both the policy debates within the American Occupation over famine, food relief and nutrition in Occupied Japan (1945-52) and the contested terms in which the debate was conducted. Conflict arose over muddled accounting of food intake in calories, a rampant black market that suggested a failure of equitable distribution, and the absence of serious unrest despite imports falling short of minimal stated requirements. Occupation authorities questioned estimates made by the Japanese government. There was internal disagreement among American authorities in Japan and between interested parties in Washington, as well as among the Allies in the Far Eastern Commission. Herbert Hoover's Famine Emergency Committee of 1946 sounded an alarm, and the Food and Fertilizer Mission of February 1947 marked a shift away from rather crude quantitative measures of caloric intake to more subtle qualitative ones of dietary balance and combinations of nutrients. The Occupation's chief concern then became the dearth of animal protein. Attempts to correct this shortfall by reestablishing Japan's fishing and whaling industries proved unpopular with U.S. allies. The Occupation preferred to champion the success of its school lunch program, whose core component – powdered skim milk imported from the United States – was viewed as an invaluable weapon in the Cold War.


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