US’s best foreign policy was a Christmas present
At the start of the holiday season in 1947, Army officers in Cincinnati were loading trucks with baby food. These packages were to be picked up by the Friendship Train, which was running coast to coast collecting donations.
The baby food and other items were shipped onto Europe to feed the hungry. The special deliveries arrived around Christmas time in France and Italy. Children there had a magical holiday because they could eat regular meals again. Their families would not have to scrap for food in garbage dumps.
Europe had yet to recover from World War II and a subsequent drought. There were serious food shortages throughout much of the continent. Food donated from America was essential to rebuilding and winning the post war peace.
For infants, getting baby food would save them from deadly malnutrition. Small children are especially vulnerable to malnutrition, which can cause lasting physical and mental damage.
Americans would not let that happen. That is why food was being donated via the Friendship Train. It was an act of generosity that showed what America is truly about: freedom from hunger and want for every person. We were not going to let any child suffer the impact of malnutrition.
Imagine the relief of parents in Europe who, after living with food shortages, now saw donations of food coming that would give their child nutrition and health.
The Friendship Train food was like a powerful opening act for the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe. The Marshall Plan is one of America’s greatest foreign policy initiatives ever. It won peace in Europe. The best path to peace is food and friendship.
Congress passed the Marshall Plan in 1948. But it was food from the Friendship Train and other initiatives that preceded it, making the Marshall Plan possible.
We tend to forget that the best foreign policy is not some fancy strategy or massive arms deal, but rather the simplest and kindest acts. Food for the hungry is the best foreign policy we can have. We should place a bigger emphasis on food and nutrition.
All nations need food as the foundation for everything. We are in a position to help impoverished nations achieve food security.
When you look at Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Afghanistan, the Sahel of Africa they all have one thing in common: hunger. And that hunger is a major source of instability. Food and nutrition can help these nations achieve peace and progress. We must help relief organizations like the World Food Program, UNICEF, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, CARE, Action Against Hunger and others who feed the hungry.
As Dwight Eisenhower said after World War II, “no element is as important in preserving the peace of the world as food.”
That’s why it’s important that Congress unite in our effort to fight world hunger, They can start by passing the global nutrition resolution (H.Res 189, S. 260) and resolving to work together to tackle hunger, especially among children and women.
We need to expand and maximize our food assistance programs to save lives and help establish peace. Let’s remember what that Christmas gift of 1947 meant to the hungry in Europe. We gave them food, nutrition and hope to recover from the worst war in history. That is the best gift we could give any nation.