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It was 65 years ago when President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law a program that would save millions of lives. The Food for Peace program has been our main tool for feeding the world’s hungry ever since.

One of Food for Peace’s first tests was helping victims of the Korean War. Through food assistance and help with rebuilding agriculture, Food for Peace saved South Korea. Millions of South Korean children received nutritious milk at school to combat malnutrition. South Korea is today a donor of food aid to other countries.

Italy, Germany, Austria and other nations received Food for Peace donations to help complete their long recovery from World War II.

Today, with so much war and arms spending around the globe, we need more Food for Peace. It is ending hunger which is the road to global stability. Our aid programs, including Food for Peace, can lead the way if Congress and the president provide them enough support.

That’s why for the 65th anniversary of Food for Peace on July 10th, a group of charities is assembling on Capitol Hill at the Dirksen Senate Office Building. They want to show members of Congress what Food for Peace is doing and what more it can do if given enough funding. Bread for the World, Catholic Relief Services, World Food Program USA, Save the Children, CARE, Action against Hunger and others will be leading the event.

Congress must pay attention because we are facing massive levels of hunger around the globe. Civil wars in Yemen, Syria and South Sudan have dramatically escalated hunger and displacement. The conflict in the Sahel and drought in East Africa are some of the other crisis points now unfolding. Peace can never been won in Afghanistan as long as hunger and malnutrition continue there.

Food must be at the top of our foreign policy agenda, or it will most certainly fail.

Tragically, very little attention is given to food and hunger issues compared to military might. As Eisenhower once said “The world cups its ear to hear the rattling of rockets. It listens less closely to the sounds of peace and well-being which emanate from the slow but steady improvement in world health and nutrition.”

This lack of attention hurts because little funding is given to the program. In fact, the Trump administration has proposed reducing food aid and even eliminating some programs.

We need to remember how important food is for nations today. You cannot have peace if people are hungry and malnourished. No economy can develop if the people are weak from lack of food. In hunger emergencies you risk losing millions of children to the stunting caused by malnutrition. These children may perish unless that lifeline arrives.

Congress should increase funding for Food for Peace and also the McGovern-Dole global school lunch program. As part of these initiatives, we must encourage agricultural development in these countries so they can build self-sufficiency in supplying food.

We need to approach our foreign policy with a Food for Peace frame of mind, realizing that hunger is a global crisis we cannot ignore.

As Eisenhower wrote of Food for Peace “My earnest hope is our people will put their hearts and minds into this effort. It is an effort that I consider in full keeping with American tradition — helping people in dire need who with us are devoted to upholding and advancing the cause of freedom.”

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William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.” His writing have been published by the NY Times, Baltimore Sun, History News Network and many other news outlets.

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