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William Lambers is an author who partnered with the U.N. World Food Program on the book Ending World Hunger.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed in writing letters. King wrote frequently, including the famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in which he encouraged activism for human rights stating “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

King also wrote letters to government leaders including the president of the United States over many administrations advocating for civil rights.

Writing was one of King’s favorite tools for justice, and it’s something everyone can do too. On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, you could write letters to your elected officials urging them to take action on hunger, homelessness, poverty, gun control and many urgent issues.

A Mount St. Joseph University student, Eve’Lynn Jackson, took such initiative by writing a letter to Congress advocating to feed hungry children. This is critical because children are starving to death in Somalia and other countries suffering from drought or conflict. But their plight receives very little attention. The U.N. World Food Program and other relief agencies are desperately short on funding for hunger relief missions.

Eve’Lynn’s letter focused on increasing funding for global nutrition programs in the budget to at least $300 million a year. The McGovern Dole Global school lunch program funding also would be increased the same amount. In addition, the Food for Peace program started by Dwight Eisenhower should see increased funding. Bread for the World distributed Eve’Lynn’s letter. 

Rhode Island non-profit Edesia, which produces Plumpy’Nut to feed severely malnourished children, told me how important Food for Peace advocacy is. Food for Peace funding helps World Food Program, UNICEF and other agencies purchase Plumpy’Nut to save the lives of malnourished kids in impoverished countries.

Letter writing can unite people in support of Food for Peace and other social justice causes. At the Interfaith Center of New York’s conference on ending homelessness, strategic organizer Nicole Krishtul expressed hope for an “incredible coalition” supporting housing as a human right. There are laws that could be passed to protect people from unjust evictions and also programs to help families struggling with rent payments. Many evictions can be prevented.

Citizens could write letters in support of Congress making permanent the expanded child tax credit. The payments from this tax credit can lift families in America out of hunger and poverty. Instead of struggling to afford food and rent, the tax credit gives families hope for the future.

If a group of people write to their elected officials, they can make fighting hunger and homelessness a top priority.

King described poverty as “a monstrous octopus, it projects its nagging, prehensile tentacles in lands and villages all over the world. Almost two-thirds of the peoples of the world go to bed hungry at night. They are undernourished, ill-housed, and shabbily clad…”

Today, hunger and poverty still afflict the globe. King was a powerful advocate and that is what the impoverished people of the world need today. You can give the poor a bigger voice so their cries for help can be heard.

Martin Luther King Jr. was hopeful there could be a better world where no one would suffer in poverty. He said, “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”

It’s up to us now to make this dream a reality and it can start with writing a letter.