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This Day in History in the Fight Against Global Hunger

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Winston Churchill once said, “The further backward you look, the further forward you can see.” As President Obama is set to make a speech about today’s global hunger crisis, it helps to look back on this day in history.

On May 17, 1946 Herbert Hoover addressed the nation as famine threatened to strike the countries devastated by World War II. Hoover had been appointed a “food ambassador” by Harry Truman, and he set out to coordinate the global response. Millions of lives were saved by this effort. As Hoover put it, the world had to come together to master the famine.


Herbert Hoover (far right) served as food ambassador under President Truman (center). Hoover, Truman and General Dwight Eisenhower (far left) made multiple speeches about fighting hunger after World War II in order to win the peace. (Truman Library photo)

The citizens of America responded, sending CARE packages and even having trains cross the country collecting food for the hungry. The recovery program for Europe after the war, known as the Marshall Plan, was built on a foundation of food and nutrition.

We face a new hunger crisis today, as conflict in Sudan, East Africa, the Sahel region of Africa, Yemen, and Afghanistan has escalated the ranks of the hungry. Also, drought has descended in many of these areas and ruined food production. Children are dying from malnutrition. Right now aid agencies lack the funding to keep up with the crisis.

The UN World Food Programme said earlier this month that $364 million is needed right away to fight hunger in the Sahel. UNICEF Yemen is only 32 percent funded for this year for its relief work. The World Food Programme in South Sudan is short $132 million for relief work.

Peace in these countries depends on whether there is enough food supply and nutrition, especially for the smallest children. If enough funding is provided, millions of children in these countries could be spared death or damaging malnutrition.

Peace is advanced if we save the children. This we know. Still, history gives hope that the world can respond to the threat of famine today. On this day in history the Greatest Generation was focused on defeating the last enemy of World War II: Hunger.

Listen to Herbert Hoover address the nation on May 17,1946 about the famine after World War II.

Read more about President Obama’s speech on global hunger at the Global Agriculture and Food Security Symposium on May 18.

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.