School meals programmes encourage parents to send girls to school and thus contribute to gender equality. (WFP/Shehzad Noorani)
A shipment of wheat from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) just arrived in Bangladesh and will help provide food for school children. The wheat, which is being unloaded at Chittagong Port on September 11th, will be used to produce high-energy biscuits.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) will distribute the biscuits to 350,000 pre-primary and primary school children. WFP is working with the government of Bangladesh to provide school meals and eventually build a nationwide program.
The USDA donation of wheat is part of the McGovern-Dole International School Meals program, named after former senators George McGovern and Bob Dole.
Both senators McGovern and Dole have championed school feeding for children in the United States and overseas. The McGovern-Dole program is the leading source of funding for school feeding programs run by aid agencies like WFP. The US Congress decides how much funding to allocate to McGovern-Dole each year.
School feeding encourages parents to send their children to class and it provides an extra source of food which can help fight off malnutrition. Providing school meals abroad is a US tradition that goes back many years including the first two world wars.
Christa Räder, the WFP Representative in Bangladesh, says “This shipment will enable WFP to continue reaching children in the most poverty prone areas of Bangladesh. The strong support provided by USDA is helping children who would not otherwise be able to get an education with the opportunity to attend school regularly and to have the much needed micronutrient intake to grow up healthy.”
A WFP study revealed that the school feeding has a “substantial effect on reducing micronutrient deficiencies – which affect children’s ability to learn and fight diseases – through the provision of biscuits fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. ”
The US Ambassador to Bangladesh, Dan Mozena, said, “Our celebration today is about more than a mountain of donated wheat from America. We celebrate today partnership. Partnership between America and Bangladesh to nurture the children of Bangladesh, partnership to nurture the development of Bangladeshi children both physically and mentally, partnership to build the nation’s citizens of tomorrow.”
Mr. Md. Motahar Hossain, MP, Honourable State Minister said, “The programme is significantly contributing to improving enrolment and attendance and reducing drop outs. Thank you to the USDA for this assistance to the school feeding programme.”