One of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dreams was a world free from hunger, which is vital for achieving equality among all peoples. We can celebrate Martin Luther King Day by joining his quest to end hunger at home and abroad.
As Dr. King proclaimed in his Nobel Peace Prize speech, “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”
He realized that we have the power to end hunger, but we just need the collective will. Dr. King once asked, “Why should there be hunger and deprivation in any land, in any city, at any table, when man has the resources and the scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life?”
Dr. King was very alarmed of spending vast sums on warfare, which would be far better utilized lifting up people from hunger and poverty. We need to constantly evaluate our spending on military programs, like the expensive nuclear weapons arsenal, so we don’t take precious resources away from the hungry.
Too much military spending can actually weaken a country, making it poorer in every way. As Dr. King reminded us, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”
Dr. King would also be concerned about the recent action by Congress giving tax cuts to the wealthy, and the impact on the poor and hungry. The Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, says, “President Trump and congressional leaders have already announced plans to follow this tax cut, mainly for high-income people, with a big push to cut more than $2 trillion from social programs for low- and middle-income people.”
If we are giving the wealthy a helping hand with tax cuts, why not also do more to aid the hungry? Thinking back to Dr. King’s remark about “three meals a day,” let’s do this starting with child feeding programs.
There are around 22 million impoverished children in the United States receiving free or reduced price school lunch or breakfast. But when these children go home from school for weekends or summer breaks, they lose access to those free meals. Some foodbanks and schools have after-school, weekend and summer feeding programs to fill in those gaps, but much more is needed. Not every child is being reached.
For example, of those 22 million needy children in the National School Lunch program only about 3.8 million receive summer meals.
With enough will from the government, along with public support, we could ensure all needy children have access to 3 meals a day, 365 days a year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is funding such a project in parts of Virginia. Along with partners No Kid Hungry and Feeding America, the 365 Project aims to have hungry children in select schools gain access to food year round.
Imagine if we could spread this around the country, basically ensuring that all impoverished children are fed every day. What a lift it would be to families in need! It would eliminate child hunger and give them a helping hand toward success. Congress and the president can make the 365 Project go nationwide in 2018, if they have the will.
Whether in the inner city or the most rural parts of America, we could reach every hungry child daily with food. The health of children would improve and the cost of medical care would go down for everyone with less doctor visits. Children who receive good nutrition also do better in school. Every child that succeeds helps build the future of the nation.
Recognizing the importance of ending hunger within our own borders, we must expand the fight overseas as well.
As Dr. King recognized, peace in the world would be better served with food for all nations. This is especially crucial now with the vast number of hungry refugees from wars in Syria, South Sudan, Iraq, Nigeria and many other areas.
We should expand our international Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole global school lunch programs to feed more hungry people. President Trump had proposed eliminating both programs, but instead the Congress should increase their funding dramatically. An effective foreign policy is one that fights hunger.
As Martin Luther King Day arrives let’s all remember what this great human rights advocate stood for, including “three meals a day” for every person. No one should ever live in hunger.
William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program on the book Ending World Hunger and a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council. He writes on History News Network, HuffPost, the Hill and many other newspapers and media outlets.