FOOD: Transforming the American Table

From Superhighways to Supermarkets

Interstate highway construction began in 1956 and almost immediately transformed the American food distribution system. The highway offered an efficient infrastructure for delivering food, allowing food manufacturers and processors to expand their operations on cheaper land farther away from cities. But it favored large supermarkets at the expense of the small stores that many relied on.

Levittown, 1949

Levittown, 1949

Courtesy of Bettmann/Corbis

William Levitt’s development on Long Island was one of the first planned suburban communities built after World War II. Many new developments restricted access, barring African American and other non-white citizens from settling in suburbia.

Truckers, about 1955

Truckers, about 1955

Courtesy of Publix Super Markets, Inc.

After World War II the use of mechanically cooled refrigerated trucks grew along with the expansion of the frozen-food industry.