In the 1950's, the United States had a huge surplus of food to help farm prices. At the same time, a a major famine was underway in China. The Yangtze river had burst its banks in several key rice growing regions, and the Chinese were starting to starve.
This was taking place just a few years after the Chinese Communist Revolution, making China an enemy of the USA. In 1954 a campaign was set up by the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), a multi-faith organisation with a goal of world peace, justice and freedom. The idea of the campaign was relatively simple; they would get half a cup of rice, wheat or other grain and put it in a sack with the words,
"If Thine Enemy Hunger, Feed Him - Send Surplus Food to China."
The sacks where then addressed and sent to President Eisenhower
In October 1955 it was decided that the campaign had run it's course and was ended. At this point the Americans had made no offer of food to China, and it seemed like the campaign was a failure. By this time, the FOR's national office had sent around 40,000 bags of grain to the White House, and many other people had sent letters, petitions or their own bags of grain. Reports indicated that the food did reach the White House, but its effect, if any was unknown.
Later, in 1974 there was a claim that the campaign was indeed a success, it was claimed that it helped influence a decision by Eisenhower not to bomb China. An interview with Al Hassler, editor of the Fellowship magazine said,
"Except for one of the accidents of history, the Food-for-China campaign would have appeared to be an imaginative, colorful failure, like many another. But the "accident" was in the information, provided confidentially years later by a former member of Eisenhower's press staff, that the campaign had been discussed in cabinet meetings simultaneously with proposals from the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the bombing of mainland China. The President, said our informant, asked how many of the grain bags had been received. When he heard that there had been over 45,000 plus thousands of additional letters, he ruled against bombing on the grounds that if so many Americans wanted reconciliation with China, it was hardly the time to start bombing it!"
Although he gave this statement, he never attributed it to any source, and no one else can verify it, making it to all intents and purposes a useless historical source. Also, the original campaign was designed simply to send food aid
to China as a no strings attached gift from America
, not as any sort of protest
against a war. In fact, Eisenhower had said publicly that he would be willing to use nuclear weapon
s against China if they invaded Quemoy
Now, in 2003 the old campaign has been rekindled. In light of the current threats the US is making against Iraq, the Rice for Peace campaign has been set up. The process is very similar to that of the 1954 campaign; rice is put into bags with a caption, this time
Rice for Peace - No War in Iraq
The package is then once again mailed to the White House.
It should be noted that the 1954 campaign was more of an inspiration than a basis for this one, however floating around the internet are a lot of adverts for it which will claim that the original campaign's intention was to stop a war and it was successful. Neither of these seem to be true and the original campaign was simply a nice idea which can be carried forwards to this one.
Note: if you are going to send a rice package, be sure to send it in a padded envelope. Unpadded envelopes can burst open when run through the mail sorting machine and spill rice everywhere. Not good.