On Christmas Eve night in 1947, President Harry Truman proudly talked about America’s most noble tradition: feeding the hungry. Truman said, “The great heart of the American people has been moved to compassion by the needs of those in other lands who are cold and hungry.”
Just days before, Truman signed legislation to provide food to European countries suffering in the aftermath of World War II.
Citizens donated as well, giving food to the Friendship Train, which collected goods for Europe. Hungry children in France would be having school lunches again because of America’s generosity.
As we celebrate the holidays, we should remember America’s great calling to help those in need whether at home or abroad. We must stand up for the rights of the hungry, especially in Aleppo, Syria, where many civilians are being blocked from humanitarian aid by the combatants of a civil war.
We must demand that the Syrian government and its ally Russia cease the attacks on civilians and let food aid through.
Syrian children have been deprived of food for too long. UNICEF’s Hanaa Singer described how a seven-year-old girl was so excited to see bread during a food distribution that she screamed out, “This is real bread.”
Our efforts to feed the hungry in the coming year will do more to advance the cause of peace than any other action we can take. That is something our new leadership must recognize as they take power in January.
Hunger has escalated for millions because of the wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and west and central African nations, many of whom are affected by Boko Haram violence. Drought has caused havoc in Africa. Haiti has suffered tremendous agricultural losses because of Hurricane Matthew.
Emergency food supplies are needed for these nations. Small children suffer lasting physical and mental damage without nutrition. Time is the essence.
The United States has the Food for Peace and Feed the Future programs. These initiatives provide much-needed funding to the leading hunger-relief agencies, including the World Food Programme, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, Mercy Corps and UNICEF.
Another vital plan is the McGovern-Dole Global School lunch program, named after former Sens. George McGovern and Bob Dole. Providing food at school fights hunger and encourages attendance. Even better is when local farmers can provide the food.
Speaking of school lunches, one of America’s presents this year has just been unwrapped in war-torn Sudan. At this very moment, some children in Sudan are getting school lunches again from the World Food Programme, thanks to a donation from America.
William Lambers is an author who partnered with the U.N. World Food Programme on the book “Ending World Hunger.”