Feeding the Hungry is What Makes America Great

What makes America great is our humanitarianism and compassion for others, even those far away from our shores. Where there is hunger, we will respond and help.

That is why it's alarming to see the Trump administration's new budget which cuts food and other foreign aid. Trump's plan eliminates the McGovern-Dole international school meals program, which feeds hungry children in developing countries.

Bill O'Keefe of Catholic Relief Services says "This proposed skinny budget is way too skinny to meet the increasing needs that left unaddressed will cause greater displacement and insecurity. The 1 percent of the budget that goes to poverty-focused foreign aid is one the best investments the U.S. makes."

Such drastic funding cuts would come at time when famine has struck South Sudan, and is a gathering storm over many other nations.

The U.S. government's famine warning system said in January the "combined magnitude, severity, and geographic scope of anticipated emergency food assistance needs during 2017 is unprecedented in recent decades.... 70 million people, across 45 countries, will require emergency food assistance this year. "

That warning, although it got little attention, showed what the new administration's top foreign policy challenge for this year must be. But somebody better flip the on switch at the White House to get the administration acting on this crisis.

You simply cannot ignore the cries of hunger from abroad, and just cut food aid budgets. Relief agencies like the UN World Food Programme, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children and many others depend on donations from the United States. Without U.S funding, how will these relief agencies fight hunger in countries impacted by war, drought and poverty.

Children will face certain malnutrition and even death if the United States backs away from its leadership role in the fight against hunger.

A generation will be stunted in growth and mind if they don't receive food. If children are stunted, an entire nation becomes stunted. Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Haiti, Ukraine, Mali, Somalia and the Boko Haram affected countries in Africa are just some of the nations in peril.

Chaos and instability will gain strength in all of them if hunger is unchecked. Evil forces like terrorism will only find comfort in such chaos.

There is a better way. As Secretary of State George Marshall said in 1947 the United States must be "against, hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos."

Marshall not only articulated our values as a people, but also offered a roadmap to peace in his time and for subsequent generations. The famous Marshall Plan which rebuilt Europe from the ashes of World War II was preceded by large amounts of food aid from the United States. Food is the foundation of reconstruction and developing an economy.

Marshall, as Chief of the Army during World War II, knew well about funding the military. But as Secretary of State he also understood that you cannot rely just on military might to win the peace. The basic human right of food for others had to be a priority in U.S. policy.

The Trump administration is proposing a $54 billion increase in military spending, which the cuts to food and other programs is meant to pay for. But the Trump approach is actually bad for security because it will create an imbalance in our priorities and programs.

Instead, the Trump administration and Congress have to find an alternative budget, one that increases food aid to match the emergencies we are currently seeing. It's just common sense to increase food aid at a time of famine.

Would the United States have cut food aid when Europe was threatened with famine after World War II? Of course not. The United States increased the aid.

As Americans we have to preserve our great tradition of humanitarianism and fighting hunger. We have to protest the cuts in funding proposed by the Trump administration to food aid.

Every citizen can take action to help the hungry. Everyone can make a statement to tell the President and the Congress how vital our hunger fighting tradition is.

Students in Professor Jeff Hillard's Cincinnati authors class at Mount St. Joseph University in Ohio run and walk Charity Miles to raise funds for the UN World Food Programme. Many schools are also taking part in the Universities Fighting Hunger summit at Walsh University at the end of March. Feeding the hungry is important to these students, and it should be to our elected officials too.

We should all raise our collective voice against any budget cuts to food aid. The Trump administration and Congress must remain dedicated to eradicating hunger whether at home or abroad.

William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Programme on the book Ending World Hunger. He writes on History News Network, the Huffington Post and many other news outlets.


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