By William Lambers

A survey by the National Retail Federation says Americans will spend about $17.2 billion on Easter this year.

Imagine if that spending could be changed, even a little bit. If $1 billion of that went to global hunger relief it could fund humanitarian emergencies in war-devastated Syria, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Mali and other countries.

At the time of Easter 1946, Americans cut back on festivities to help those suffering in countries leveled by World War II. While the hard-fought war had been won, the peace had not. Hunger was the enemy that remained.

Americans listened to the plea of President Harry Truman around Easter when he warned, “We cannot ignore the cry of hungry children. Surely we will not turn our backs on the millions of human beings begging for just a crust of bread. The warm heart of America will respond to the greatest threat of mass starvation in the history of mankind.”

Truman canceled the White House egg roll as part of the nationwide effort to conserve food. Americans rallied to send as much food as they could overseas.

The first 20,000 CARE packages of food arrived in France a couple weeks after Easter. Herbert Hoover, who led hunger relief after both World Wars, penned the series of books on America’s life-saving efforts called “An American Epic.” Americans today can start writing the next volume by their actions in this turbulent time in the world.

War and drought disasters are placing millions at risk of starvation. The conflict in Syria has destroyed food production factories. Even if the fighting mercifully ended today, it will take years to rebuild the supply system. Both war and drought have struck at Mali and the Sahel region of Africa. In South Sudan, people are living off foods from the wild because of internal conflict and poor harvests. In Afghanistan, little is told about the hunger that makes about 60 percent of its youngest children stunted in growth. In Haiti, there is still much to be done to fight hunger and help the country rebuild.

Even today there are ways to feed the hungry without spending a nickel. If you go online and play FreeRice you raise money every time you answer a question correctly. If you go to you can download a free app and go run, walk or bike to raise money for the World Food Programme or Feeding America. There is hunger within America’s borders, too, with 50 million-plus in need. But there is more than enough food on the planet for everyone.

This Easter, nothing could be more important than saving the lives of the hungry. No more important steps could be taken toward peace than relieving the crushing agony of hunger that afflicts 870 million people around the globe. The message of Easter is to stop that suffering and renew the world.

William Lambers partnered with the U.N. World Food Programme on the book ”Ending World Hunger.”