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Courage, Compassion, and the CARE Package: America’s Moral Leadership Can Help Us End the Global Hunger Crisis

CARE Packages are distributed in Austria .

Photo: CARE

Photo: CARE

We need to dream big and act boldly – we have done it before.

This week I am in Rome with hundreds of others, while thousands are gathering virtually for the UN Food System Pre-Summit. This convening comes at a time when the number of acutely malnourished people in the world has reached 270 million.

After decades of progress in alleviating hunger, the last year has seen a dramatic, 80% increase in severe malnutrition. In fact, tonight, nearly a billion people will go to bed hungry, while another two billion do not know where their next meal is coming from. This is true in Yemen and Mali; Afghanistan and El Salvador; DRC and Ethiopia.

Seventy-five years ago, Americans displayed our moral leadership, generosity, and courage when we shipped the first CARE packages in the immediate wake of WWII to millions of Europeans suffering from hunger. The Christian Science Monitor called these CARE Packages “Compassion in a Box,” since they set the moral tone of our engagement with the World: Americans harnessing our collective ingenuity and generosity to demonstrate who we are.

270 million people are acutely malnourished

Today we need the same audacity, spirit of empathy and solidarity if we are to face this new historic crisis.

As the CARE Package turns 75, the story of its role in turning enemies into allies, and in deepening ties between peoples as well as governments is one worth telling. But so is the need for a comprehensive set of solutions that include focusing on hunger, changing consumption, shifts to sustainable agriculture, equitable livelihoods, and resiliency.

The same spirit that moved us to send those CARE packages 75 years ago is the same one that can lead us to join to overcome hunger by 2030.

With an investment of 33 billion dollars a year – a fraction of the dollars we have invested in recovering from Covid-19 — we could rid the world of acute hunger. Or we could join in coalitions to create 100% living wages and incomes for everyone working in the food system. The next generation of “CARE Packages” needs to come in the form of coalitions to change policy, structure, and private sector practice.

So we need to dream big and act boldly- we have done it before, and the UN Food System Summit is the platform for each of us to join together to meet the world’s most basic need- sustainable and nutritious food for everyone.

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