It is easy to think about Herbert Hoover’s humanitarian relief efforts as discrete events brought about by different moments in historical time. Yet Hoover saw them all related and extensions of his original efforts with the Commission for Relief in Belgium, the United States Food Administration, and the United States Grain Corporation. A small graphic in the April 1, 1925, issue of the A.R.A. Association Review shows “The Family Tree,” illustrating the connective thread and evolution of Hoover’s relief efforts.
The roots which gave growth to the tree began with the Commission for Relief in Belgium, Hoover as “food czar” for the U.S. Food Administration, and the U.S. Grain Corporation created as part of the Food Administration and then spun off to carry out the mandate of providing a guaranteed price for wheat to ensure adequate supplies were available for the war effort and the home front. The tree branches represent later organizations that resulted from the accomplishments of the root organizations. The American Relief Administration [ARA] was created by Congress to deal with the food shortages in counties following World War 1. When the Congressional appropriation was exhausted, Hoover converted the organization into a private humanitarian group originally called the American Relief Administration European Children’s Fund. This organization continued food, medical, and clothing relief in Europe and later during the Russian Famine of 1921-23.
The A.R.A. Association, shown at the top of the tree, was created as an alumni association for those who served in the various relief efforts undertaken by Herbert Hoover. It not only provided an ongoing identity for the many accomplishments in feeding millions of people in need, but also kept lines of communication open in case the services of these individuals would be needed in a future crisis.
The success at soliciting public and private funds for these organizations and the efficient operation in procuring and distributing food left surplus balances in several of the accounts. Roughly $34 million remained from the CRB operations. Much of it went to rebuild Belgian universities that had been damaged or destroyed during the war, especially the Louvain Library. The remainder went for the creation of the C.R.B. Education Foundation, which is now the Belgian American Educational Foundation, Inc. that provides fellowships allowing American students to study in Belgium and Belgium students to study in America. About $5 million remained from operation in France that went to endow various charities that served Northern France as well as a statue to honor the sacrifice of French mothers for the war effort. A portion of the funds remaining from the A.R.A went to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts for health and health education as well as the Boys’ Clubs of America.