Winter 2015–2016

Packaged Care

American relief in a box

Nina Delgado

Established in November 1945, some six months after the fall of Nazi Germany, CARE (the acronym originally stood for Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe; today it is known as the Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere) was founded as a non-governmental organization to facilitate the transport of emergency food supplies from Americans to relatives and friends in Europe in the aftermath of World War II. CARE was the brainchild of a group of American aid officials, including Wallace J. Campbell, director of the New York City office of the Cooperative League of the USA; United Nations relief official Lincoln Clark; and Arthur Ringland of the War Relief Control Board. Deciding to focus solely on food relief, rather than shelter, clothing, or resettlement, the men drew together a non-sectarian consortium of nearly two dozen organizations, such as Catholic Relief Services and the Save the Children Federation. By May 1946, the fledgling organization had completed negotiations with various foreign governments and began making its first deliveries of food, initially to France and then to a wide range of other countries.1

The first CARE packages (this now-familiar phrase in fact derives from the name for the organization’s parcels) were repurposed US Army “Ten-in-One” ration kits. Designed to provide one day’s worth of breakfast and dinner, as well as a midday snack, for ten soldiers in the field, a typical Ten-in-One included various canned meats, stews, vegetables, and fruits; cereal and biscuits, margarine, jam, instant coffee, evaporated milk, salt, and sugar; and personal items such as cigarettes, toilet paper, and soap. (Among the first supporters of the scheme was President Harry S. Truman, who bought a hundred packages at $15 each.) The surplus ration kits soon ran out and CARE began assembling its own food parcels, now designed primarily for families, that were guaranteed to be delivered to their recipients overseas within 120 days after purchase.

These packages, which were assembled in Philadelphia, originally included tinned meats, eight ounces of powdered eggs, a pound each of lard, fruit preserves, honey, raisins, and chocolate, and two pounds each of margarine, sugar, powdered milk, and coffee. By 1947, the organization had also begun to develop specialized packages (often at different price points) that catered to specific national and ethnic food preferences—coffee was replaced with tea in English packages; spaghetti was added to the Italian parcels; packages destined for Jewish families were stocked with kosher foods. As the threat of famine began to subside, CARE also began creating packages containing vocational materials such as carpentry tools and cobbler’s kits; gardening implements and seeds; baby clothes and infant-care products; blankets and other textiles; educational materials like paper, pencils, chalk, and crayons; and, in collaboration with UNESCO, books designed to restock destroyed libraries.

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