During the Cold War, the government made food to last. And it did.

Illustration for article titled During the Cold War, the government made food to last. And it did.
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Back in the olden days of the 1950s and ’60s, Americans naively thought that they would be able to survive nuclear war if only they hid from the radiation in subterranean bomb shelters in their backyards or basements. A couple of weeks of hiding underground, and then they could go back out again and start rebuilding a devastated world. But, in the meantime, they would need to eat. And so the U.S. government and Big Food worked together to develop special bomb shelter cuisine.


On its website, the History Channel has posted a, um, history of foods people were encouraged to stock in their fallout shelters. These included bulgur biscuits, a “granulated synthetic protein known as Multi-Purpose Food,” and lots and lots of canned food, particularly Spam.

It’s an interesting read in part because of how disgusting some of this food was and also how the government and Big Food worked together to produce it. By the end of the Doomsday Food program, 20 million bulgur biscuits had been produced. It is unclear how many were actually eaten, but when workers in New York City uncovered a stockpile of supplies under the Brooklyn Bridge, they found 350,000 “Civil Defense All-Purpose Survival Crackers” available for tasting.

Associate editor of The Takeout. Chicagoan. Owned by dog.



Up until, I think, the mid 80's (maybe early 80's) each county in my state had an emergency government services office that I believe was funded by the Federal Gov. This consisted of one person in a small office would would give out pamphlets about surviving nuclear war and blueprints for fall-out shelters. The worker in my county was a friend of the family. I would stop by to visit him and his dog and play old maid and rummy. I still have the pamphlet he gave me: