It all began with the CARE Package: after World War II about 100 million of them were distributed in Europe – one million in Austria alone.
November 1945. Europe lay in ruins. In Washington, 22 private humanitarian aid organisations formed the „Cooperative for American Remittance to Europe“ – founding thereby C.A.R.E. On May 11, 1946, the first batch of CARE Packages landed in Le Havre/France.
Two months later, on July 19, 1946, 3200 packages arrived at Vienna’s Franz Joseph Railway Station. The contents of these packages were chosen in such a way that it a family of five could raise their caloric intake by 500 calories per person for two weeks. In the beginning these CARE Packages were only distributed to individuals who had connections to the USA; they were even personally addressed. One day, however, the shipping centre in New York received an unconventional order: „For a hungry person in Europe“, was written on the order form. CARE consequently changed its policy in due course and sent thousands of unaddressed packages.
By the year 1955, CARE had distributed 100 million packages, one million in Austria alone. Initially, nobody had expected the project to take on such huge dimensions. In 1948, CARE General Manager Paul Comely French wrote: „From every indicator in the light of discussions I had with government ministers, industrialists, laborleaders and newspapermen, it seems likely to me that the fall and winter of 1948-49 will be the last winter in which CARE’s services will be needed.“ He was wrong.
What was in it?
The first CARE Packages were so-called ten-in-one rations supplied by the US Army. Initially intended during World War II to provide 10 soldiers with one meal each, every package contained:
4.1 kg of meat and entrails
2.7 kg of cornflakes, oatmeal and cookies
1.4 kg of fruits and pudding
0.9 kg of vegetables
1.4 kg of sugar
0.5 kg of cocoa and coffee powder
0.4 kg of condensed milk
0.2 kg of butter
0.2 kg of cheese
1 pack of cigarettes
In March 1947 these packages were supplemented with honey, chocolate, dried fruit and powdered egg, and from April onwards blankets, cotton and wool cloth were distributed. Starting in August, there were also infant packages as well as packages containing kosher food.