Should the United States offer Peace Corps volunteers only to countries facing starvation and grinding poverty? One would think so from the recent letter of Edward P. Healy {letters, May 29}. Mr. Healy not only believes the Peace Corps ideal is betrayed by sending volunteers to Eastern and Central Europe, he also thinks that there is something wrong with calling the Peace Corps the U.S. Peace Corps.

On the first point, readers should understand that the Peace Corps has always had three goals, only one of which has been to fight poverty and foster economic development. The other two goals focus on the cross-cultural experience of Peace Corps service: American volunteers learning about other people and cultures in order to bring that knowledge and understanding back to the United States, while also sharing with the people of each host country the values, knowledge and skills that make Peace Corps volunteers uniquely American.

Though the economic and social needs of Eastern and Central Europe and the U.S.S.R. are clearly different from those of African, Asian or Latin American nations, they are no less deserving of attention by the United States and Peace Corps. And, after 40 years of East-West conflict, there is now an opportunity to promote peace, and for the Peace Corps to fulfill in those nations both development and the two ''cross-cultural'' goals that Congress mandated when it created the agency.

As for the complaint that the Peace Corps is somehow subverted by being called the U.S. Peace Corps, this is akin to trying to ''un-ring'' a bell. What has made the Peace Corps so special for nearly 30 years is the fact that it is a U.S. government program that sends American volunteers abroad to help others and share cultural and social values. No one I know of (here or in host countries) has been under any delusion that the Peace Corps has ever been anything but an official U.S. government organization. The long-standing separation of the Peace Corps from the day-to-day political and foreign policy concerns of the U.S. government is not compromised by restating the obvious: in reality, if not on its logo, the Peace Corps is and always has been the U.S. Peace Corps. And it is an organization all U.S. citizens can be proud of, wherever Peace Corps volunteers serve. DAVID BURGESS Arlington The writer is former director of the Peace Corps in Niger and Morocco and served as director of policy and planning at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington.