With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Obama or McCain will need Global Hunger Czar

Either Barack Obama or John McCain will inherit as president the worst global food crisis in decades. High food prices are forcing millions more people into the already swollen ranks of the hungry.

The new president will be more able to tackle the hunger crisis with passage of the Global Food Security Act, introduced by Senators Lugar and Casey. Both Obama and McCain can help support this legislation in the coming months. The Global Food Security Act would create a White House coordinator to oversee the U.S. response to global hunger. This"global hunger czar" would strengthen cooperation between existing U.S. government agencies, the private sector and charities in order to maximize hunger relief efforts. He or she would also advise the president and place the fight against hunger into the very forefront of American foreign policy, such as it was after World War II.

Following that devastating conflict there was the urgency of feeding millions in the war-torn lands while helping rebuild their societies. President Harry Truman called upon former President Herbert Hoover to serve as a"food ambassador." Hoover led a mission overseas in 1946 to over 30 countries to find out the food requirements and how to meet them. His mission also demonstrated the dedication of the United States to help countries in need. It was a show of great strength and compassion.

Back home a Famine Emergency Committee was created to encourage the saving of food so as to increase the ability of the United States to send more overseas.

Hoover not only organized the U.S. and international efforts but also brought much needed attention to the crisis. For instance on May 17, 1946 Hoover addressed the nation as to the findings of his worldwide trip and how the U.S. should respond. Today, we need a high ranking government official to have a similar discourse with the country about global hunger to keep the crisis front and center in the public eye.

In late 1946, President Truman also appointed a Cabinet Committee on World Food Programs to monitor global hunger. Secretary of State George C. Marshall was one of the Cabinet members which made policy recommendations to the President. Marshall, in one of his press releases, stated"Food is the very basis of all reconstruction. Hunger and insecurity are the worst enemies of peace." Marshall knew that a European recovery program would never get off the ground if the people suffered from hunger and want. Indeed the ultimate success of the Marshall Plan is owed to the foundation provided by food.

Although we have not heard much about world hunger during this presidential campaign, this is one of the gravest threats the United States and the international community face. In the past year, food shortages have produced deadly riots in countries like Haiti. In Afghanistan, where the United States is supporting a fledgling government, how can we expect a strong democracy to emerge if that nation's people are starving or malnourished? Hunger breeds chaos, not peace.

The fight against hunger has to be a top foreign policy agenda for the incoming president. Passage of the Global Food Security Act, creating a white house"hunger czar," would be the first step in escalating the U.S. global response to hunger. After World War II, the United States led the way in saving hundreds of millions of people from starvation. Today, the U.S. can again lead in this new global hunger crisis.