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The world’s hungry need our help at Thanksgiving time

You could be the lifeline for the hungry by feeding “silent guests” on Thanksgiving through donations to hunger-fighting charities.

A boy carries a bag of food on his head during a mass looting of a warehouse that have COVID-19 food palliatives that were not given during lockdown to relieve people of hunger, in Jos, Nigeria, on Oct. 24.
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This Thanksgiving you could put an extra plate at your table, a symbol of the world’s hungry who are suffering during this pandemic. The UN World Food Program just issued a warning of potential famine in four nations (Yemen, South Sudan, Burkina Faso and Northeast Nigeria). Many other countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are on the brink of starvation.

WFP chief David Beasley pleads: “The 270 million people marching toward the brink of starvation need our help today more than ever. ... The threat of famine is looming again, so we have to step up, not step back.”

You could be the lifeline for the hungry by feeding “silent guests” on Thanksgiving through donations to hunger-fighting charities. We are facing the biggest hunger crisis since the World War II era.

It was that post-WWII period when our Thanksgiving tradition of sharing with those less fortunate saved Europe. Drought in the summer of 1947 led to severe food shortages for European nations that were struggling to rebuild. Without food there could be no reconstruction. There could be no peace or stability.

President Harry Truman, in a televised address, said, “The situation in Europe is grim and forbidding as winter approaches. Despite the vigorous efforts of the European people, their crops have suffered so badly from droughts, floods and cold that the tragedy of hunger is a stark reality.”

Truman announced a plan of action for Americans to conserve as much food as possible, so more could be sent to the hungry in Europe. A Citizens Food Committee was formed. Every American could do something to help win the peace in Europe, the final chapter of the World War II effort. Truman pleaded “I know every American feels in his heart that we must help to prevent starvation and distress among our fellow men in other countries. But more than this, the food-saving program announced tonight offers an opportunity to each of you to make a contribution to the peace.”

A Thanksgiving food drive was held by Catholic Relief Services, collecting donations at churches.

Children at the Angier School in Waban, Massachusetts, collected food and toys for Save the Children to distribute in Holland, which had suffered famine during the war.

The Friendship Train ran across America, collecting donations that were sent overseas to Europe in time for the Christmas holidays of 1947-48. At Thanksgiving families were encouraged to donate and feed a “silent guest” at their holiday meal.

The Silent Guest tradition at Thanksgiving has been carried on in recent years through fund-raisers. Today, everyone can do a little bit to help the World Food Program, Catholic Relief Services, UNICEF, Save the Children, Action Against Hunger, CARE, Edesia and many other organizations that fight hunger. The pandemic has worsened hunger in countries already reeling from conflict and climate change.

You can write letters to Congress about fighting hunger both at home and overseas. The University of Houston, the University of Illinois, Cincinnati, Cal Poly, Auburn, Ithaca and Mount St. Joseph are among the colleges having a Free Rice match over the holidays. Free Rice is an online education game that raises donations for the World Food Program.

Using the app Charity Miles you can raise donations while you walk for the World Food Program, Feeding America and Save the Children.

Whatever actions you take on Thanksgiving can help save millions of people from starving to death across the globe.

Author William Lambers partnered with the UN World Food Program on the book Ending World Hunger.