Multi-purpose food

Man, what a rabbit hole I got dropped into. Ever do one of those things where you look up one item on the internet and it leads to information about a related item and then to another and before long your ten degrees of separation from your original topic? Yeah. That happened to me.

How have I never hear of Multi-Purpose Food? This is the sort of thing that, I would think, would be common history among people who are interested in the history of preparedness.

I’ll give you some links in a moment, but let me tell you how I found this stuff. In a quest for some other info, I came across someone’s blog where they posted about a bomb shelter in their grandparents backyard that they finally got access to. Essentially a time capsule from the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, there were pictures of the things that were found. (Post 1 and post 2 about the bomb shelter) One of the things that fascinated me was the pre-packaged kit of survival food and canned water. See, back then, much like today, enterprising folks set up businesses to cater to the sudden demand for suitable provisions to carry you through the nuclear holocaust that seemed imminent. What was in the kit? Well, in the one that was shown there were 14 cans of water and a can of “Multi-Purpose Food”.

What is MPF? Apparently, one 2-ounce serving met 1/3 of your daily protein and nutritional requirements. So, three 2-oz. servings per day would, in theory, keep you from starving to death.

MPF was the brainchild of Clifford Clinton, a guy who saw starvation up close and decided to do something about it. His restaurant in California would give free meals to those who couldn’t pay. But Clifton wanted to help a much larger population. To do that, he needed the right food. He contacted a biochemist with his parameters:

“This is what I want. This is what I must have – a product that will provide one-third of a day’s full nutrition in each two ounces. It must not offend any religious dietary law and must make no significant drain on supplies of accustomed food. Production costs should make it available to people having little or no income (under 5 cents a meal). It must have a long shelf life, require no refrigeration and be palatable whether served hot or cold”

And…it worked. Tons of this stuff was made up and shipped to the post-war world to relieve famines and hunger. As the ’60s rolled around, General Mills started making this stuff up for use in provisioning bomb shelters. And thats where I found information on it.

Nowdays we have freeze dried, vacuum sealed, foods that last pretty much as long as the container holding them will last. Content-wise, I’m sure that there are similar MPF-type food products out there…lifeboat rations spring to mind. But anyway, it’s an interesting little bit of history that segues nicely into our interest in preparedness.

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