America`s Food for Peace Critical During Global Crisis
William Lambers

With global food prices soaring U.S. leadership is needed to save millions from the plight of hunger. And if we turn the pages of history we see that America has responded before to massive humanitarian challenges.

The destruction caused by World War II left hundreds of millions of people at risk of starvation. The United States had to send massive food aid to countries such as Germany. Former President Hoover noted, `It may come as a great shock to American taxpayers` to give aid to those with whom they had just been in a death struggle. But America led the way, saving millions of lives. The United States then shouldered the expense of the European reconstruction program known as the Marshall Plan.

It was American food aid that saved lives, gave people hope and a foundation for recovery after World War II.

This American quest to fight hunger continued in 1954 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower started a plan to send surplus food overseas to needy countries. This Food for Peace program, whether providing aid to flood victims in Austria or school lunches to children in Italy, promoted stability during the Cold War. Ike said that `Food can be a powerful instrument for all the free world in building a durable peace.`

That same spirit is now needed to help developing nations hit by the `silent tsunami` of soaring food prices. The United States needs to increase funding for the `Food for Peace` program which is a major supplier to the UN World Food Programme`s life-saving work in impoverished nations. Hunger and poverty claim 25,000 lives each day across the globe. A human disaster, it`s also a major source of instability.

Other American aid programs such as the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program need more funding. The McGovern-Dole program is vital to developing countries because it provides school lunches to children, an essential plan to boost their health and school performance. More money for these programs is essential now to make up for shortfalls caused by higher food prices.

The World Food Programme calls the soaring food prices a `silent tsunami` threatening hundreds of millions of people. This tsunami is creating many new victims of hunger. The World Food Programme announced it had to suspend a school lunch program for 450,000 children in Cambodia because of funding shortfalls. These children in Cambodia and many others around the globe need help or they will face hunger that will stunt their growth and alter their lives in a tragic way.

Back in post World War II Germany preventing hunger was the top priority for the American general Lucius D. Clay. Gen. Clay described how he `begged and argued for food` for the German people. Clay knew that Americans did not want to see suffering among the Germans and that a new democratic government in that country hung in the balance.

Today in Afghanistan the rising cost of wheat is forcing Afghans to struggle to get basics such as bread. The World Food Programme has put out a $77 million appeal to provide food for suffering Afghans. We can`t expect democracy and freedom to catch on in Afghanistan -- or anywhere for that matter -- in the midst of hunger.

Iraq is also a country where food is necessary for reconstruction and peace. Many Iraqis are displaced within their country due to sectarian violence and need food aid. More than two million Iraqis have fled, with over a million of these refugees landing in Syria. According to the World Food Programme director, Josette Sheeran, `Iraqi women, children and men are unable to meet their basic food needs and social support systems in Syria are being overstretched.`

Food aid to developing nations has to be a top foreign policy priority for the United States. Higher food prices are making this essential commitment more difficult to fulfill. But failure to do so will perpetuate the hunger that is the gravest threat to peace.

William Lambers is the author of the `The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World.` He also writes for the History News Service and the History News Network (HNN).

View the Film `Ending Child Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World.`