There is a lot of talk in Washington, D.C. about cutting spending. But if Congress is serious about looking for savings, then it should look to investing in child nutrition at home and abroad.
That investment will not only save us money, but will do more to build peace than any other initiative we can spend on.
Josette Sheeran, director of the UN World Food Programme, talks about how vital it is we invest in child nutrition. And how we save in the long run.
Children who do not receive proper nutrition, especially in the first thousand days of life, suffer lasting physical and mental damage. These future citizens will be less productive, less educated, and more susceptible to disease. This places a greater burden on everyone.
In the United States, hunger is a huge drain on the economy. Bread for the World reports: “A 2007 study co-authored by Harry Holzer of Georgetown University found that a conservative estimate of its cost to the economy was $500 billion per year, due largely to lower productivity and higher healthcare costs. Holzer points out that this amount has undoubtedly increased during the recession.”
In the U.S. we have to make sure that children can get access to the food they need to thrive. This includes filling in the gaps in food aid, such as the summer and after-school feeding programs.
Overseas nutrition plays a vital role in how effective our foreign policy will be. Look at the crisis points in Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen, Pakistan, and elsewhere. All these countries have extremely high child malnutrition rates. If only more investment were put into fighting child hunger, steps could be taken toward peace and economic development.
Right now, though, Congress is proposing reducing international food aid as part of its budget cutting. Yet these programs currently make up less than one tenth of one percent of the federal budget. So even getting rid of them entirely would do almost nothing to solve the debt crisis. Reducing them will damage our foreign policy.
If Congress cuts food aid, they will essentially be increasing the burden on American taxpayers down the road. Hunger and malnutrition breed instability, disease, and even conflict. All these come with a price tag.
But if we make enough investment in nutrition, we can save many a child and country from despair, and form future partnerships in peace and trade.
Article first published as Want to Cut Spending and Build Peace? Invest in Child Nutrition on Blogcritics.