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Point of View: MLK's call to service against hunger

It was Martin Luther King Jr. who called us to action saying, "Everyone can be great because everybody can serve.” Each of us has this greatness inside. We need your power of service to stop the biggest hunger crisis America and the world has ever seen.

King found it unacceptable for there to be hunger. He said, “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?” But hunger is rampant at home and overseas. In America hunger has struck every community, and has worsened during the pandemic because of layoffs.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, the CEO of Feeding America, says, "The hard truth is that more than 50 million people in America may be food insecure this year before the COVID-19 crisis is over."

Global hunger is also on the rise during this pandemic. Even before the coronavirus struck last year, global hunger was a massive crisis that needed more attention. Conflicts and climate change were causing severe hunger in Yemen, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, and many other areas. Now the pandemic has made these emergencies worse.

David Beasley, director of the UN World Food Program (WFP), warns that 270 million people worldwide are in danger of starvation.

But the hungry are often forgotten, something King realized had to change. In his Nobel Peace Prize lecture, King said, "The poor in our countries have been shut out of our minds, and driven from the mainstream of our societies, because we have allowed them to become invisible."

King said, "The rich nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled, and feed the unfed." Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for “the least of these.”

Living the gospel of service you can come to the aid of the hungry. The first step is to make others aware of the crisis. We cannot let the hungry become invisible as King warned.

You can tell your friends and neighbors about the crisis and collectively you can take action such as writing a letter to your representative in Congress. A new coronavirus relief package is expected to be negotiated by the incoming Congress. It must include food for the hungry at home and abroad. The last relief package excluded overseas food aid.

Bread for the World is encouraging citizens to speak up for the hungry so Congress will not forget them when crafting legislation. A global nutrition package could save many children overseas from deadly malnutrition. The expansion of the McGovern-Dole global school lunch program would change the world by feeding bodies and minds.

You can do other things to raise awareness about hunger including playing the online game FreeRice, which raises donations for the WFP. You can host a fundraiser at your school or organization. You can volunteer at a food bank and tell others about the needs.

King would want you to take action, to serve others and help feed the hungry during this global pandemic. Millions of lives depend on it.

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