By William Lambers
When John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960, guess what he talked about on the campaign trail? Feeding the hungry. It was Kennedy who said, before the election, “food is strength, and food is peace, and food is freedom, and food is a helping hand to people around the world.”
Kennedy talked about feeding those in need at home and abroad. In fact, when he did become president, one of his first acts was to send food aid to the hungry. While in office, he built upon the Food for Peace program started by his predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower.
Kennedy strengthened the American food aid that had become such a huge part of our foreign policy in winning the peace after World War II.
Today, fighting hunger is still a major issue affecting both domestic policy and foreign policy. Sadly, we have heard very little about it this election season.
The world is seeing the largest refugee crisis since World War II. The mass exodus of Syrian war refugees into Europe was driven in part by lack of food.
Food is a major source of stability in a world with so many people displaced by war and drought. It’s vital we give full support to hunger-relief missions.
We have wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Ukraine and in the African nations attacked by Boko Haram. Where there is war there is extreme hunger.
Ethiopia, Haiti and Central America are experiencing massive drought and food shortages. Supporting agricultural recovery is critical to getting hunger-stricken countries back on their feet. The bipartisan Global Food Security Act, passed recently by Congress, is a good start for helping farmers worldwide.
On a strategic scale, it is impossible for us to carry out a successful campaign against ISIS, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups without fighting hunger. Desperation from lack of food may drive individuals into the evil arms of terrorists.
The U.N. World Food Programme’s director, Ertharin Cousin, has warned that cuts in rations could drive Syrian refugees to ISIS. If the international community fully funds food aid, we could prevent this from happening.
At home, we need to end hunger for our communities to thrive. We must not leave anyone behind.
As a nation, we should find it unacceptable that there is hunger within our own borders. There are around 48 million Americans living in hunger. We can end it, if we have the political will.
Hunger should be a major campaign issue this presidential election season. The next president has to lead on this vital front in both our domestic and foreign policy. It’s time to put aside the theatrics and talk about real issues, hunger being a top priority.
William Lambers, of Cincinnati, partnered with the U.N. World Food Programme on the book “Ending World Hunger.”