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Don't let hunger claim lives during pandemic
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Don't let hunger claim lives during pandemic

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Virus Outbreak Utah

Utah Food Bank volunteers assemble bags of food to be delivered to waiting cars at the food bank's mobile food pantry Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, in Salt Lake City, during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

During the 1918 influenza pandemic a teacher in Washington, D.C. was confronted with a horrifying situation about her students. The children were “Fainting in school rooms and dying at home” according to a Washington Post article.

But these students were not suffering initially because of influenza. It was hunger and malnutrition. Their parents could not afford milk because of high prices. The teacher appealed to a local banker for help saying the children were “slowly starving to death.”

The malnutrition also left the children more vulnerable to the influenza and other diseases.

Tragic scenes like this happened across the country. In Hartford, Connecticut, the health board was deeply concerned over the lack of milk for children because of high prices. The St. Louis Post Dispatch started a milk fund to help families in need during the influenza.

Hunger was the crisis within the crisis of the 1918 pandemic. A relief fund was started for the aforementioned students in Washington, D.C.. The Girl Scouts there even started a soup kitchen when they noticed children at playgrounds too weak to even move.

We can learn a lot from the 1918 pandemic as we confront the coronavirus today. And one of those lessons must be to feed the hungry. We cannot let another killer ravage society, especially when we already have the cure for hunger.

The spread of the coronavirus has drastically escalated hunger at home and overseas.

Feeding America estimates the number of people living in hunger within the United States may increase to 54 million this year. In 2018, that number was 37 million.

Food banks are overwhelmed with demand. Many people lost jobs when businesses and schools were closed to control the spread of the coronavirus. They need the help of food banks to get by.

The Congress should increase funding for TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) that supplies America’s food banks. We must also increase the food stamp (SNAP) program to give families more purchasing power at grocery stores. This also helps small businesses that redeem the stamps.

We cannot let hunger escalate in America during a pandemic. It’s a matter of public health.

Hunger is also a critical foreign policy issue. The UN World Food Program says 25 nations are at risk of devastating levels of hunger because of the coronavirus. The spread of the virus has made hunger much worse for nations who were already weakened by conflict and drought.

The civil war in Yemen is the most drastic example as hunger has escalated there along with the coronavirus. Syria, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso and many other countries are in grave danger.

We need to increase our international food aid. We can again look to 1918 for inspiration. Many people forget that the United States led a massive hunger relief operation for nations impacted by World War I. Coordinated by Herbert Hoover, this mission saved hundreds of millions of lives.

U.S. Army captain and Doctor Thomas Orbison had a special title for all the relief work they were doing. Orbison, who ran life-saving feeding programs for children in Latvia, called it “The Gospel of Food for Undernourished Children.”

It is that gospel that will be needed more than ever today to fight global hunger. The UN World Food Program director David Beasley warns “millions of the world’s very poorest families have been forced even closer to the abyss. Livelihoods are being destroyed at an unprecedented rate and now their lives are in imminent danger from starvation. Make no mistake – if we do not act now to end this pandemic of human suffering, many people will die.”

The Congress should increase our global food aid, including the McGovern-Dole program that feeds school children in impoverished nations.

We already have the cure for hunger. So let’s stop this crisis from claiming any more lives.

William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program and Catholic Relief Services on the book Ending World Hunger. His writings have been published by USA Today, Washington Post, History News Network, Columbus Dispatch and many other news outlets.

William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program and Catholic Relief Services on the book Ending World Hunger. His writings have been published by USA Today, Washington Post, History News Network, Columbus Dispatch and many other news outlets.

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