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Another Voice: Thanksgiving calls us to help relieve world hunger

Another Voice: Thanksgiving calls us to help relieve world hunger

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At Thanksgiving in 1947, New Hampshire residents dispatched two train boxcars on a special mission. Loaded with food, they were to join up with the Friendship Train that was crossing America collecting donations to feed Europe.

It was just two years after WWII and severe drought had struck, leaving Europe with food shortages. Americans rallied to their aid during the Thanksgiving holiday.

According to columnist Drew Pearson, New Hampshire was not originally part of the Friendship Train route. Not wanting to be left out, WFEA radio put out the call for donations and New Hampshire residents responded big. Likewise there were similar responses from Tennessee and Connecticut even though not on the train’s main route.

Buffalo was the first stop when the Friendship Train reached New York State. It was a cold November evening, but thousands of residents greeted the train. And the response in terms of donations was fantastic. According to Friendship Train historian Dorothy R. Scheele, “The citizens of western New York had reason to be excited and proud: originally hoping to fill seven boxcars, the final tally was 13.” That food was sent on its way east and eventually to Europe to feed the hungry.

The Friendship Train was one of several Thanksgiving events to fight hunger overseas. Catholic Relief Services was hosting a food drive at churches across the country. At their Thanksgiving meal, families set aside a chair and plate that represented one of the world’s hungry. They donated to feed their “silent guest” and this led to thousands of CARE packages sent overseas to feed the hungry in Europe.

This outpouring of generosity encouraged the interim aid package passed by Congress that sent food aid to Italy, Austria and France. The following year Congress passed the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe.

On Thanksgiving we can each do something to stop the fast growing global hunger crisis. The UN World Food Program just issued a warning that the number of people on the edge of starvation is now 45 million. And there are millions more people suffering hunger that are not far from these famine conditions.

This Thanksgiving we, too, can respond to the global hunger emergency before us. We can feed the starving war victims in Yemen, Ethiopia, South Sudan and many other countries. We can provide much needed school meals to children in Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

We can feed silent guests from these countries by donating to the World Food Program, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children and other charities.

William Lambers is an author who partnered with the U.N. World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.”

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