There have been a number of articles recently about the 50th anniversary of President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address. This speech is remembered most for Ike’s warning about the military-industrial complex.
But let’s remember another Eisenhower anniversary, one not nearly as talked about: that of a January 29th, 1959 special message to the Congress.
Eisenhower wrote Congress: “Food can be a powerful instrument for all the free world in building a durable peace. We and other surplus-producing nations must do our very best to make the fullest constructive use of our abundance of agricultural products to this end.”
(Listen to Dwight Eisenhower in a speech about child hunger after World War II on July 8, 1948)
During Ike’s administration the United States was sending its surplus food abroad to fight world hunger. This Food for Peace program led to an international version which was created during the first months of the Kennedy administration. This international food for peace body is today known as the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
What is the WFP facing today? Josette Sheeran, the agency’s director, said last week there is currently a $3 billion funding shortage. What this means is that food aid and development programs in Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen, Pakistan, and many other countries do not have the resources to go forward.
Lack of funding increases malnutrition rates in these countries and prevents the establishment of long-term food security: the ability of a country to sustain itself. When hunger and malnutrition exist in any country, peace-building efforts are thwarted. Eisenhower also wrote to Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson about exploring with other nations “all practical means of using food for peace.” Ike said, “My earnest hope is that our people will put their hearts as well as their minds into this effort.”
As we go forward in 2011, we in the United States, and other capable countries, must not forget the food for peace concept. Hunger, malnutrition, and funding shortages for food programs are unacceptable, both for humanitarian and for national security reasons.
A concerted effort among nations can strengthen the United Nations World Food Programme and its hunger-fighting efforts. Food security is a relatively inexpensive foreign policy expenditure for the nations of the world. The returns will be promising, for fighting hunger is the foundation for achieving peace and economic development around the globe.