President Dwight Eisenhower started it. President Kennedy expanded it. Some members of Congress once sought to abolish it. It’s the Food for Peace program of the United States. The initiative has fed the hungry worldwide and saved millions of lives.
Food for Peace (aka Public Law 480) was signed into law on July 10, 1954 by President Dwight Eisenhower. Since the end of World War II, it was recognized that fighting hunger was essential to winning the peace. A food and development organization was needed to meet all challenges. The United States had a surplus of food, so it made sense to start this program. Food would be sent overseas to feed the hungry and build peace.
The Korean War had left millions in need of help. India had suffered through natural disasters and needed aid. Food for Peace went to work in these and other nations. European countries still had to recover from World War II and Food for Peace donations helped them. One of the earliest relief missions fed Austria after massive flooding. Japan also was a beneficiary in the early years of Food for Peace.
Today, Food for Peace is the largest donor to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the lead agency in fighting global hunger. So when there is a hunger crisis in Syria, Afghanistan, Haiti or South Sudan, Food for Peace donations are critical to saving lives.
Food for Peace also donates to organizations like Catholic Relief Services. For example, the work of CRS helping farmers in South Sudan is supported by Food for Peace.
The future of this world-changing program lies in the hands of Congress through funding and needed reforms. Food for Peace donations need to obtain food locally in a developing nation whenever possible. This would reduce the transit time and shipping cost of sending food longer distances.
Funding levels need to be adequate to meet the growing emergency of global hunger. With so many conflicts ongoing Food for Peace donations are needed to help countries survive and rebuild.
The 60th anniversary of Food for Peace is July 10th. Let’s go back to the 30th anniversary and the words of President Ronald Reagan:
“In short, the Food for Peace Program has become a wonderful means by which a nation of abundance has helped those in need. It’s helped us expand agricultural markets, get needy allies back on their feet, and help potential allies become strong allies for freedom. Food for Peace has helped to coordinate the charitable impulses of the private sector. It’s helped feed the weakest people in the world…May Food for Peace continue its great work; may it continue to be administered wisely; and may we continue to combat hunger and malnutrition throughout the world.”
Today, Food for Peace must remain that hope for the world’s hungry. We need to continue lifting nations out of poverty and not stop the drive to end world hunger.