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What Reagan Called “Instrument of American Compassion” Facing Budget Cuts

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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.

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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.
  • http://adventuresinamyland.wordpress.com/ Amy@AiA

    I actually agree with this cut. No, I am not an awful person that wants everyone to starve, but when you look at aid and how it functions it is very often NOT beneficial for a number of reasons.

    If aid is re-worked so that it actually, well, works then I might agree with you. But as it stands, aid is an issue that no one wants to really touch.