The lunch was roast beef and green beans. The flavor of Monday's Kiwanis gathering at the Holiday Inn in downtown Silver Spring, however, was distinctly boeuf roti and haricots verts -- with a side order of international politics.

Members from 36 Washington-area Kiwanis organizations crowded the hotel banquet room to celebrate a "presidents' exchange" with a dozen Kiwanians from Montreal. They also heard Donald F. McHenry, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, argue for greater U.S. efforts to solve problems around the world before they become crises.

"Change is taking place so rapidly," said McHenry, "it outpaces the social fabric of many countries."

McHenry, who became ambassador following the resignation of Andrew Young, told the group that "socioeconomic problems rob the world of stability. yWe will not have the kind of stability that leads to peace unless we assist in resolving those problems."

Hinting the United States has not done enough to solve the social and economic difficulties in countries from Latin America to Iran, he said many of those countries are like "fish in troubled waters," waiting for "our communist adversaries to take advantage."

"It is not enough to help them when the problems become self-evident," McHenry said. "We will have to get away from our tendency to deal with symptoms of the problems and deal with the cause of the problems."

The 250 Kiwanians, members of an international organization with a long history of community service and projects aimed at increasing understanding between different cultures, gave a standing ovation.

Monday's "presidents' exchange" is an annual event that began in 1972 in which the presidents of the Montreal and Washington-area clubs briefly exchange roles. A group from Washington is expected to go to Montreal next week for a similar exchange celebrating "Canada-United States Goodwill Week."