There is much debate in Congress on how much to cut military spending. But there is another vital area of our foreign policy at risk of budget cuts too: international food aid.
Fighting hunger is not often included in talks about national security. But it should be. Remember the famous World War II slogan, "Food will win the war and write the peace." George Marshall said, "Hunger and insecurity are the worst enemies of peace." Food formed the foundation of the famous Marshall Plan that spurred Europe's recovery after the war.
While some members of Congress may think it prudent now to cut food aid programs to save a few dollars, think again. On the contrary, by investing now in nutrition and agriculture development, future humanitarian disasters can be averted, thereby reducing foreign assistance in the future. Nutrition for a generation of children means better educated societies, more stable societies and the chance for economic growth.
Investing in farmers allows them to build up the capacity to better resist drought. This is what can prevent famines from taking hold.
Reducing food aid will cost lives, increase the spread of disease, and weaken societies who are fighting poverty. Congress simply cannot cut food aid, in view of the famine striking East Africa, drought leveling Afghanistan, and malnutrition on the attack in Yemen. We have to remember that Haiti and other countries need food to remain on the road to recovery.
International food aid currently accounts for less than one tenth of one percent of the federal budget. So in essence, you are looking at an already relatively low-funded program that is being selected for potential cuts. You could actually increase the funding for these programs past current levels and put very little strain on the budget.
International food aid programs include the Food for Peace initiative started by President Dwight Eisenhower and the McGovern-Dole program which provides school meals. These programs got their start by members of the Greatest Generation who understood that food forms the basis of all reconstruction, peace and progress.
This is a lesson Congress should not forget as it forges the budget and how to spend on an essential aspect of our national security: fighting global hunger.
Learn more about the potential budget cuts at the World Food Program USA.