Tag Archives: Christmas

A Christmas miracle and a gift for the world’s children

In late 1944 two journalists traveled to war-devastated Finnmark in the northern part of Norway. What they saw was shocking. The Nazi Germans had scorched the earth while retreating from the area, destroying homes and buildings and leaving tens of thousands of Finnmark’s residents out in the cold to suffer.

Amid so much destruction there was a humanitarian nightmare. The Allies, commanded by General Eisenhower, shipped in aid. The two journalists continued their tour of the war-torn province, surveying the destruction. But even in the darkest of times, there was room for a little miracle. In one town they came across a magical sight: a Christmas party for children.

The News of Norway printed, “The kids drank milk and consumed cookies to their hearts’ content, danced around the Christmas tree and played games almost like in peacetime.” The journalists wrote that the arrival of relief supplies had brought hope to Finnmark.

Children need to be spared the ravages of war and other disasters. This holiday season please remember the children and think of ways to help them for the coming new year.

You can support the petition to provide school meals for all the world’s children through the U.S. McGovern-Dole program. Or help out the charity Save the Children whose grand history includes relief work in Finnmark. Or assist the relief effort for Haiti and Pakistan by contacting the World Food Programme.

Today, there are millions of children caught in war or disaster zones seeking their own miracle for the holidays and the new year.

For amid all the harshness and cruelty in this world, one thing remains the same. The most powerful force is goodwill and generosity, particularly for children. This should not be forgotten. And amid all the political debate on what to do about this country or that country, feeding and educating all children across the globe is what can make a difference.

On this holiday we can start a plan to give children this gift.

Back to Finnmark for a moment: A collection of clothing had taken place all across America and the clothes were shipped in to Finnmark as part of the relief effort.

One of the Norwegian journalists, Jorgen Juve, recounted a story of a child in the area of the Tana River in Finnmark. The clothing supplies had reached their targets and the girl, named Liv, was smoothing out her new blue coat. The little girl reached in her coat and pulled out a note that read “R. Minneapolis.” She looked at the reporter and said, “Now, I am dressed for the winter.”


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The Christmas Carol that Fed the Hungry

450px-Chapel2Many winters ago in a tiny village in Austria, the Christmas Carol “Silent Night” was born. In a small church in Oberndorf, the song of peace and heavenly love was first played.

Peace would not last though in the land of music. The World Wars came. The destruction was massive. Even after World War II ended there was still suffering among the people. They were without food.

Austrian children could not even grow because it was hard finding one meal a day. Without enough nutrition the next generation cannot develop or learn. They cannot make music.

The U.S. Army, Catholic Relief Services, UNICEF and others brought food to Austria for war recovery. Meals were distributed at schools. They tried to bring life back to normal. No easy task. Times would be tough with a major drought in 1947, limiting food supplies.

Then “Silent Night” came to the rescue. It was the holidays of 1948 when a woman in New Jersey suggested that every time someone heard “Silent Night” on the radio they donate a meal.

This idea was adopted as part of a holiday program, started the year before, where people bought CARE packages for those in need. These parcels of food were sent to Austria and other nations.

National ArchivesLike the Christmas Carol that spread worldwide, so too did this plan of feeding the hungry. The holidays could truly be about sharing.

This food made a world of difference for the countries who had lost just about everything during the war.

With food, a people and a nation can bounce back. Only when hunger is beaten, can there be peace. That is the message of “Silent Night.”

Today, Obendorf and its peaceful church lit up at night is a symbol of the peace of Christmas, the “Silent Night.” The war and its starvation are long past. Yet, a world away, at another place of worship, there is a different tale.

In the Central African Republic people flock to the church to stay alive and find food. Violence has erupted there among rebel groups. People are constantly on the run for their lives. Their possessions are lost. Farmers can no longer plant. So hunger and poverty now increase.

They depend on security from UN peacekeepers and the World Food Program to bring them life-saving rations. But that is only if there is enough funds from the international community to feed them.

When you think of Christmas, the holidays, and “Silent Night” think of the Central African Republic. Think of the food and peace they need to overcome conflict and build their society.

Think also of the flood of Syrian refugees into Lebanon. They have escaped the civil war in their country only to find a new enemy: winter. They just want a roof over their head and warm meals.

What more noble act could be done this holiday then to feed the hungry war victims? Or to bring food and shelter to those in the storm hit areas of the Philippines and other countries. The World Food Program, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, UNICEF and many others struggling to bring relief to so many areas in need.

Originally published at the Huffington Post.

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The Christmas When New England Fed the World

In 1947 Americans fed a "silent guest" during the holidays and this led to a CARE package going overseas to feed the hungry.Credits: CARE

In 1947 Americans fed a “silent guest” during the holidays and this led to a CARE package going overseas to feed the hungry. Credits:CARE

New England is known for its seafood, the Boston Red Sox and Celtics. Less known is how one Christmas holiday New England took on the challenge of feeding the world.

The year was 1947, just two years after World War II, and nations in Europe and Asia were suffering food shortages. Americans were ready to help. When the holidays rolled around that year an announcement was made from Plymouth, Massachusetts asking families to feed a “silent guest” at their holiday meals.

By making a donation to the Silent Guest Committee, a CARE package would be sent to a hungry family in Europe. A newspaper headline saying “Feasts Provide for All” was the idea.

And the donations poured in. From Thanksgiving through Christmas people reached out to help those suffering overseas. CARE packages flooded Europe and other areas to feed the hungry. Food was life and hope for people trying to rebuild from the war ruins. Another headline read “New England Gives Cheer to the Needy.”

Hunger was fought at home too. In Boston, the Volunteers of America fed the homeless and the Salvation Army was very active.

As this Christmas arrives Americans can take in a “silent guest” at their holiday meal. Just taking some spare change they can purchase multiple meals. That’s right. If you were to find one dollar of change in a coat pocket, on a chair, or in a piggy bank you could feed a child for a week.

So this holiday think like Beantown and New England did in 1947 and feed a “silent guest.” Help change the world.

A few charities to send “Silent Guest” donations include:

World Food Programme

Catholic Relief Services



Save the Children

Feeding America

Church World Service


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Feeding the Hungry in a Season of Giving

Last spring I wrote an op-ed about the looming famine in the Sahel region of Africa. Drought and conflict were causing massive food shortages for millions of people across at least eight countries.

Humanitarian agencies and donors did take action. Lives were saved. A disaster on the scale of the East Africa famine of 2011 was avoided.

But by no means is the Sahel out of the woods, as hunger still is very much present there. As Rene McGuffin of the World Food Programme says, “The response was effective…but malnutrition rates remain unacceptably high throughout much of the region.”

As this Season of Giving has arrived it’s important to remember what the individual can do to lead the fight against hunger worldwide. Even just going online and playing the game FreeRice can raise funds to feed children in Niger, one of the Sahel countries. The rice will go towards the school feeding program that helps children fight off hunger and be able to get an education.

Imagine if on Christmas Eve or Day people everywhere actually feed children in Niger simply by going online and playing this award-winning trivia game.

There are many different ways you can help. Just this month I sponsored a student from the College of Mount St. Joseph, Elizabeth Paff, who ran and raised money to feed children a life-saving food called Plumpy’nut. This food treats children with severe malnutrition. The donations, some still coming in, go to a non-profit organization called Edesia that produces the Plumpy’Nut and is currently making it for the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo and Chad, one of the Sahel countries.

Writing to your representative in Congress asking them to fully fund the Food for Peace program is another significant step. Food for Peace is the U.S. program that responds to hunger emergencies all around the world in a effort to promote stability. Food for Peace funding is part of the Farm Bill which is currently stalled in Congress. If that delay continues Food for Peace funding will run out. To fight hunger at home Feeding America is asking Congress to fund food stamps and the TEFAP program that supports foodbanks.

There is enough food in the world for everyone. Hunger can be defeated here at home and abroad. What can make that happen is within each individual – the holiday spirit of giving.

See also: Feed an Invisible Guest This Holiday.

Article first published as Feeding the Hungry in a Season of Giving on Blogcritics.

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This Christmas Feed a Silent Guest and End World Hunger

The Providence-based Edesia will be making plumpy'nut this Christmas Eve to feed malnourished children in Chad (photo courtesy of Edesia)

Imagine if every person gave a gift this Christmas to a “silent guest,” one of the world’s hungry. During Christmas 1947, Americans did just that, continuing the successful “silent guest” program started in Thanksgiving of that year by a former aspiring actress named Iris Gabriel.

People imagined a “silent guest” at their holiday meal, and donated the cost of the imaginary food plate to buy a CARE package. These packages fed many thousands in countries overseas rebuilding from World War II.

This Christmas Eve a company called Edesia will be making packages of plumpy’nut to send to the African nation of Chad. Food is out of reach for the many poor in Chad, a country where drought and conflict have taken their toll. The smallest children pay the heaviest price unless the outside world intervenes with foods like plumpy’nut.

Plumpy’nut is a special package of food that saves infants from succumbing to dangerous malnutrition. There is no more important gift these children can receive.

Edesia accepts donations so you can help them fill this plumpy’nut order to Chad.One dollar actually buys several little packages, or sachets, of plumpy. Their plant has also produced this peanut paste for East Africa, Yemen, Guatemala, Haiti and Pakistan. Aid agencies like the World Food Programme, UNICEF and others distribute the plumpy’nut in these countries.You can make “silent guest” donations to these organizations at their respective web sites.

There are also ways you can feed a silent guest simply by playing on your computer. If you play the online game Free Rice, 10 grains of rice are donated to the hungry every time you get a correct answer. The rice is paid for by advertisers on the site.

There are many ways you can give a holiday gift to a silent guest at your holiday celebration. Happy Holidays!

See also Commentary in the San Francisco Chronicle: What you can do today to help end world hunger.

Article first published as This Christmas Feed a Silent Guest and End World Hunger on Blogcritics.

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When Santa, Rudolph and Eisenhower Took on Global Hunger

Christmas is coming and all eyes are on the sky for Rudolph, his fellow reindeers and, of course, Santa Claus. Back in 1953 Santa’s sled was extra heavy, with hundreds of thousands of food packages for the hungry worldwide.

That year President Dwight Eisenhower started “Operation Reindeer.” He wanted to build goodwill with Christmas food packages to fight global hunger. Everyone got involved. Charities, the U.S. military and also the public took part in either buying the CARE packages or making the deliveries.

Germany, Japan, Austria, Korea, and Italy were some of the countries that received the Christmas food gifts. All of these nations had recently been scarred by war and were trying to overcome the resulting poverty.

“Operation Reindeer” was an opening chapter in the U.S. Food for Peace era. What better way to build a peaceful world than by ensuring all could have the food and nutrition they needed to survive and develop?

When Eisenhower took office, the United States had a growing surplus of food. Worldwide, though, there were hungry people. It made sense to send this food abroad to the needy.

The food would mean something more too. It would connect Americans to people overseas. Food would form a friendship. Food would unite. Food would be a bridge to peace.

Someone who received an Operation Reindeer package in Germany said, “It reminds us that we have not been forgotten.” One German wrote, “tell Americans that they have admirers in Germany.”

In Austria, a governor said that “his country is very grateful and the only reason that recovery has been so miraculous has been due to U.S. aid and friendship.” Another remarked, “this food package program makes the man on the street in Austria appreciate the friendship of the U.S.”

After Operation Reindeer ended, one of the officials was asked, “Why isn’t such a program wider in scope?” Observers of Operation Reindeer felt that more publicity about the program would have further enhanced this public diplomacy outreach.

Also, it would highlight the needs in these countries. In Italy, Mr. Newton Leonard, sent by the U.S. to observe the aid, wrote, “we wished that the packages weighed a hundred pounds for we realized how quickly the contents of the packages would be consumed by the hungry and ill children and adults.” Leonard recommended a Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program with emphasis on child feeding, including school meals.

Operation Reindeer was only a quick relief program and it was discontinued after 1954 in favor of longer lasting projects. What was needed was steady aid and this is what evolved in the coming years. One reporter remarked they fired Santa for Christmas but instead gave him a year-round job.

What followed in Italy was Food for Peace with school feeding for millions. Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Peru, India and others also received school meals during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations.

Food for Peace programs, whether school meals or other projects, helped turn many countries from recovery mode to self-sufficiency. They are now donors to hunger fighting programs around the globe.

Today, though, there are still many people around the world suffering from hunger. We still need the Food for Peace spirit that was so strong during the immediate years after World War II.

There are nearly 1 billion people worldwide who suffer from hunger. With that kind of suffering and deprivation, peace and development cannot take hold. In Afghanistan, for instance, over 7 million people are estimated to suffer from hunger and many millions more on the brink of this despair. These statistics were tabulated before the recent drought struck that country, putting millions of others at risk.

Food is the best road to peace in that country for without it people cannot work, cannot grow, cannot learn and cannot thrive. It’s the same story in Sudan, Ivory Coast, Niger, Yemen, Haiti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other countries mired in instability and poverty. If we feed their hungry and build their agricultural capacity, it’s our best hope of building stable and prosperous countries, and having them as lasting friends and allies of the United States.

Food is what unites all peoples across the globe, for all people and nations need it to survive and develop. There is no better gift we can give this Christmas or year round than food for the world’s hungry.

Article first published as When Santa, Rudolph, and Eisenhower Took on Global Hunger on Blogcritics.

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