Details of the budget deal by Democrats and Republicans last Friday have emerged. Included are $140 million in cuts to international food aid, including the Food for Peace program. A final vote on the budget is expected this week.
In 1984 President Ronald Reagan called Food for Peace “an instrument of American compassion” as well as vital to national security. Reagan added, “people who are hungry are weak allies for freedom.”
Food for Peace is a program, or really a movement, born out of the World War II era. A famous slogan of that time, “Food will win the war and write the peace,” recognized the powerful force of hunger in international relations. Food aid formed a foundation for war-recovering nations.
This philosophy carried over into the official creation of the Food for Peace program in 1954 (Public Law 480). This quickly meant flood relief for Austria, school lunches for Italy and Japan, a massive agreement to send wheat and rice to India, and many other life-saving and development projects.
Today, we need to remember these principles of food for peace to meet today’s threats. We see the instability around us in countries which all share a common bond: high levels of hunger and malnutrition. Remember the protests in Egypt where people were chanting for bread and freedom.
In Afghanistan, we seek a peace. But how can we expect peace to take hold when so much of the population struggles daily just to get enough food? In Yemen, high food prices and malnutrition are the norm for many families. This is a continuing recipe for disaster in a country with political unrest and a strong Al Qaeda presence.
Food is the basis of reconstruction for many countries, including Pakistan and Haiti. Right now, hunger relief missions by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in the aforementioned countries, as well as others, are facing funding shortfalls. Food for Peace happens to be the biggest supplier to WFP.
There is tremendous need for U.S. leadership in fighting hunger, and Food for Peace is at the forefront. So too is the McGovern-Dole school lunch program. School lunches are a key tool in fighting hunger and promoting development with education.
So, with nearly one billion people suffering from hunger, this is not the time to be slashing food aid. It’s the wrong area to make cuts. Our national security strategy depends on an effective response to fighting hunger globally.