A State of the Union that fights hunger

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President Trump, in his 2018 State of the Union, can make a powerful statement for feeding the hungry. The president can set the tone for the whole year in taking action against hunger at home and abroad.  

With famine threatening Yemen, South Sudan, the Congo, Nigeria and Somalia the leadership of the United States is desperately needed. History shows we can rise to the occasion.

When President Harry Truman made his 1946 State of the Union, a gathering storm of famine was looming over Europe. That continent was still reeling from the destruction of World War II.  Hunger was everywhere. In his address, delivered in writing to Congress, Truman said “It is imperative that we give all necessary aid within our means to the people who have borne the ravages of war.”

{mosads}Truman recognized that desperate times required our nation to do more. He wrote “During the next few months the need for food in the world will be more serious than at any time during the war. And, despite the large shipments we have already made, and despite what we shall send, there remain great needs abroad.”


Truman would soon appoint former President Herbert Hoover as a food ambassador to travel the world coordinating supplies. The American public responded in the coming year with donations, including the famous CARE Packages.

If the U.S. had not acted, hundreds of millions would have starved to death. These would have been casualties of war because hunger is always the enemy that far outlasts the fighting. As Hoover said, “Famine is the inevitable aftermath of war.”

Trump and the Congress must recognize this too. We cannot be cutting international food aid budgets, as Trump had proposed last year. We should be increasing food aid budgets to help those in need, including the unprecedented number of refugees around the globe.

Civil war in Syria has displaced civilians all throughout the Middle East, with some even onto Europe. These Syrian war victims are hungry and need our help.   

We should increase funding for our Food for Peace program, which donates to the UN World Food Program, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children and other agencies fighting hunger. Food for Peace can save lives and build the stability nations need to get through difficult times.  


Bill O’Keefe, vice president of government relations for Catholic Relief Services, says, “With well over 20 million facing famine, we hope the State of the Union highlights the growing humanitarian needs around the world, the spirit of generosity of the American people, and American leadership in expanding our country’s response to address those needs.”

Truman, also in 1946, launched the National School Lunch Program, which fed millions of impoverished children with free meals. There is more we can do though to eliminate child hunger in our country including increasing summer feeding and weekend backpack programs. These initiatives fill in the gaps when the free lunches are not available when school is closed.

These food programs are especially critical in areas like Houston, which is recovering from Hurricane Harvey. The Houston Food Bank has received a great demand from schools for weekend backpack programs to feed needy children.

The Democratic response to President Trump’s speech should also prioritize feeding the hungry. Democrats and Republicans often come together on the issue of hunger. Recent Congressional Gold Medal winner Republican Bob Dole made a career of partnering with Democratic Sen. George McGovern on the issue of hunger. The two parties must show the same type of cooperation today if we are to defeat hunger here in America and overseas.

Food is vital to our foreign and domestic policy. We should expect President Trump to highlight this in his State of the Union and launch a plan of action. We are stronger at home with good nutrition for all, especially children. Overseas we cannot win the peace if people are starving. 

William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program on the book Ending World Hunger. He writes on History News Network, The Hill and many other news outlets. He is a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.

Tags Donald Trump hunger hunger relief Look Ahead: SOTU 2018 starvation UN world food program USAID William Lambers

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