Hunger and the U.S. Presidency

February 15, 2021

Food insecurity has surfaced as a focus of debate among policymakers, particularly as the rates of hunger continue to grow in the wake of COVID-19. But for decades, ending hunger has been a bipartisan priority among American policymakers, and for generations, U.S. Presidents have campaigned, debated, and spoken about this issue:

“Let no one go hungry away. If any of the kind of people should be in want of corn, supply their necessities…” – George Washington (1775)

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.” – Abraham Lincoln (1865)

“Of course, there are always some men who are not affected by good times, just as there are some men who are not affected by bad times. But speaking broadly, it is true that if prosperity comes, all of us tend to share more or less therein, and that if adversity comes each of us, to a greater or less extent, feels the tension.” – Theodore Roosevelt (1903)

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt (1937)

“We have rejected the discredited theory that the fortunes of the Nation should be in the hands of a privileged few. We have abandoned the “trickle down” concept of national prosperity. Instead, we believe that our economic system should rest on a democratic foundation and that wealth should be created for the benefit of all.” – Harry S. Truman (1949)

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953)

“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” – John F. Kennedy (1961)

“Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope — some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity.” – Lyndon B. Johnson (1964)

“Nowhere has the failure of government been more tragically apparent than in its efforts to help the poor and especially in its system of public welfare.” – Richard Nixon (1969)

“I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good. We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading, sometimes being led, rewarding. I will go to the people and the programs that are the brighter points of light, and I will ask every member of my government to become involved. The old ideas are new again because they are not old, they are timeless: duty, sacrifice, commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in.” – George H.W. Bush (1989)