Tag Archives: McGovern-Dole program

Summer Meals Should be for all Children

The Dept. of Agriculture is trying to expand summer feeding throughout the country (courtesy USDA)

The Dept. of Agriculture is trying to expand summer feeding throughout the country (courtesy USDA)

Summer is here and time for relaxation. But for millions of needy children across the United States, it is the summer months when they are most vulnerable to hunger.

During the school year children have access to the federal school lunch and breakfast programs. This is a major safety net for families who need a little to help to get by during tough times. When school is out these meals sadly disappear for many.

The Food Research and Action Center states, “for every seven low-income students who depended on the National School Lunch Program during the regular 2011-2012 school year, only one child received summer meals in July 2012.”

Some U.S. counties do not even have a summer feeding site. So there is a huge gap in the U.S. child feeding program that will need innovation from both the public and the government to fix. In Cincinnati, Ohio, for example, public libraries are helping out as locations for distributing summer meals. More summer feeding sites, or other delivery methods, need to be established and there has to be adequate funding.

Summer meals for children are also missing in Haiti, where food is desperately needed. A series of storms and drought have damaged food production in an already impoverished country. The UN World Food Programme, which depends on voluntary funding, did not receive enough to provide summer feeding in Haiti nor a program for take home rations to help needy families.

The U.S. McGovern-Dole global school meals program is helping in Haiti as well as other countries including Mali and Afghanistan, but it needs to be expanded. Unfortunately, funding for McGovern-Dole is at risk as members of Congress are threatening cuts to food aid. This despite the fact that food aid makes up less than one tenth of one percent of the federal budget.

The program was named after the two former senators, George McGovern and Bob Dole, who during World War II witnessed the devastating effect of hunger on children and understood the importance of these initiatives in the global scene.

We should expect our representatives in Congress to make feeding the hungry overseas a top foreign policy priority.

Summer meals, both here at home and abroad, should be for all children. It’s a real test of our character as a society, do we care for the next generation and give them a helping hand.

In the United States you can call 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (for Spanish speakers) to find the closest summer feeding sites or visit www.whyhunger.org/findfood.

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Where are the School Meals?

Emergency school feeding in Mali through the World Food Programme. Cuts by Congress to food aid could harm this program. (WFP/Daouda Guirou)

Emergency school feeding in Mali through the World Food Programme. Cuts by Congress to food aid could harm this program. (WFP/Daouda Guirou)

We know that globally there is a huge need for school lunch programs to fight child hunger. Yet, it’s the middle of June and there’s still no word on which countries will receive grants from the U.S. McGovern-Dole school lunch program. Last year the announcement took place in April and the previous year in May.

The McGovern-Dole program is run by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA). However, the program is constantly under stress from potential funding cuts by Congress.

Bread for the World reported earlier this year that “234,000 children will have reduced or denied access to school feeding programs under the McGovern-Dole program” as a result of the sequestration cuts. It is believed that the sequestration is causing the delay in the announcement of the school feeding grants. The longer the delay, the longer hungry and malnourished children have to wait for the meals.

Aid groups, including Catholic Relief Services and the World Food Program USA, want funding for McGovern-Dole increased. They see the positive effects this program has in countries that are suffering from disasters, war, or long-standing poverty. This year’s Farm Bill legislation is the perfect opportunity to increase the level of funding and allow for more school meals in Afghanistan, Mali, Haiti and other countries where needs are massive.

WFP USA says it “has included an ask for McGovern-Dole of $300 million for FY14 in our overall global hunger and nutrition recommendations. Providing $300 million a year for McGovern-Dole would allow this program to reach 10% of the hungry school-aged children in need, increasing their nutritional status and increasing school attendance, especially for girls.” Recent funding levels for McGovern-Dole are around the $200 million mark.

Here in the United States the National School Lunch program is meant to fight off child hunger.

But what happens when summer arrives and schools close? The lunches are disappearing for many children. The Food and Research Action Center (FRAC) just released a report showing a huge gap in feeding coverage during the summer months.

The report says, “for every seven low-income students who depended on the National School Lunch Program during the regular 2011-2012 school year, only one child received summer meals in July 2012.”

Tom Vilsack, head of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), emphasizes, “We must do all we can to ensure that children get nutritious food year-round, so that they are ready to learn during the school year and have a greater chance to succeed.” Efforts by USDA and the public have slightly improved summer feeding participation but the gap in coverage is still huge.

Jim Weill, the president of FRAC, says, “USDA is providing strong leadership with its emphasis on improving summer meals, but Congress will need to fix some of the underlying problems in the programs in the 2015 Child Nutrition Reauthorization to truly repair the Summer Nutrition Programs. Congress must take a fresh look at the Summer Nutrition Programs and consider ways to improve this faltering program so it more effectively addresses hunger and obesity.”

The struggle to defeat hunger at home and abroad depends on school meals. Leaders, both from the government and the public, need to ensure these vital food programs are strengthened.

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Catholic Relief Services Wants McGovern-Dole Expanded to Fight World Hunger

McGovern-Dole funding is allowing CRS to provide school meals in war-devastated Mali, where poverty rates are high. (Kristina Brayman/CRS)

McGovern-Dole funding is allowing CRS to provide school meals in war-devastated Mali, where poverty rates are high. (Kristina Brayman/CRS)

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has a long history of supporting school meals around the world, dating back to the World War II era. Now CRS is calling on Congress to fund the McGovern-Dole global school meals program at $250 million this year. Previous funding levels are around $205 million.

School meals make foreign policy sense. Sean Callahan of CRS recently stated before Congress, “Education and nutrition are inextricably linked to future economic growth.”

That is why CRS wants to see the McGovern-Dole initiative expanded. Haiti, Afghanistan and many other countries need support for school feeding. In Mali, where conflict and drought have devastated the lives of millions, school meals are a big part of aiding children.

CRS received a McGovern-Dole grant for Mali and it’s making a difference. At last report, CRS is “currently serving 310 schools in two regions and approximately 58,000 beneficiaries.” CRS provides meals as well as vitamins and medications to the school children.

Callahan adds, “The program has helped to increase school enrollment for girls by 41% and for boys by 22%. On average, students attended school 95% of the days classes were held.”

The CRS Mali program also has elements of local food production for providing the meals. This is key. Where possible, the food for school meals needs to come from local sources. This helps communities and furthers the stability of the program so that continued aid is not needed.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) also is providing school meals in Mali. The UN food agency relies on voluntary funding but often struggles to receive it. Expanding McGovern-Dole, for instance, could allow an opportunity to support WFP and its school feeding in Mali.

The Congress will have an opportunity to increase the McGovern-Dole funding in the upcoming Farm Bill legislation.

Article first published as Catholic Relief Services Wants McGovern-Dole Expanded to Fight World Hunger on Blogcritics.

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Senator Brown Urges School Meals at Home and Abroad

Senator Sherrod Brown recently visited Haiti and saw what a difference school feeding makes for children. The school meals are funded by the U.S. McGovern-Dole program. (World Food Programme photo)

Senator Sherrod Brown recently visited Haiti and saw what a difference school feeding makes for children. The school meals are funded by the U.S. McGovern-Dole program. (World Food Programme photo)

United States Senator Sherrod Brown (D, OH) has been a long-time advocate for the school lunch program in Ohio and across the country. He is currently trying to expand summer feeding to reach more children in need.

Brown is also advocating for school meals abroad as an important piece of U.S. foreign policy. The News Record reported on Brown’s recent visit to Haiti. There the Senator saw the impact of school meals, funded by the US McGovern-Dole program, on Haitian children.

Named after former Senators George McGovern and Bob Dole, this program funds school meals in developing countries. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) received the McGovern-Dole grant for Haiti and distributes the food. Elizabeth Jennings of WFP says the McGovern-Dole funding “has been vital” in supporting school feeding in Haiti.

WFP relies on voluntary funding for its hunger relief programs in Haiti and other countries. These programs often face low funding levels. The McGovern-Dole grant has allowed WFP to feed about 300,000 Haitian children.

For many children in developing countries, school feeding might be the only meal they receive the entire day. McGovern-Dole funding allows millions of children in Haiti, Afghanistan, Mali and other countries to get food for education.

Although McGovern-Dole and other international food aid is less than one tenth of one percent of the federal budget, it is often targeted for cuts by some members of Congress. Bread for the World says that the sequester will mean “234,000 children will experience reductions from or be denied access to school feeding programs administered through the McGovern-Dole program.”

Senator Brown is urging that the U.S. continue to fund McGovern-Dole and other food aid programs.

Article first published as Senator Brown Urges School Meals at Home and Abroad on Blogcritics.

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McGovern-Dole Brings School Meals to Bangladesh

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.”

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McGovern’s The Third Freedom Essential Reading as Congress Debates Food Aid

George McGovern, author of the Third Freedom, was named the United Nations World Food Programme's first global ambassador against hunger. (WFP photo)

Former Democratic senator George McGovern’s The Third Freedom: Ending Hunger in Our Time highlights ways Congress can work to fight malnutrition at home and abroad, and why it’s so important we win this struggle against hunger.

His book takes on special meaning right now as Congress is proposing reductions in funding to food aid programs both here and abroad.

McGovern, who ran for President in 1972, was the Food for Peace director under President  Kennedy. This program sends U.S. food overseas to fight hunger and build stability.

McGovern also has a long track record helping feed the hungry in the United States. In a Friends of the World Food Program teleconference, the question was once posed to him: why fight hunger abroad when there are hungry people here? His reply was: Why not do both? Fight hunger whether it’s in the US or overseas.

In The Third Freedom he talks about the Food for Peace program which was supported by both President Dwight Eisenhower (a Republican) and then Democratic President John F. Kennedy. Since then, it has been the main weapon of the U.S. against world hunger.

Food for Peace though is currently at risk of significant budget cuts by Congress, despite the fact that there are tremendous hunger crisis points such as famine in East Africa, drought ravaging Afghanistan, and nations like Haiti who need food to bolster reconstruction.

The charity Save the Children says the House of Representatives is proposing $1.04 billion for Food Peace in the upcoming FY 2012 budget, a significant dropoff from this year’s funding level of nearly $1.5 billion.

One of the key bipartisan initiatives discussed by McGovern in the book is the McGovern-Dole global school meals program. Along with Republican Senator Robert Dole, McGovern developed this initiative.

McGovern-Dole funds school meal projects in developing countries. The UN World Food Programme, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision and other charities provide meals using McGovern-Dole funds. This program is among those at risk in current budget discussions in the Congress.

McGovern also writes about bipartisan congressional committees, which helped improve the U.S. domestic school lunch program. Today’s representatives need to keep up the fight to ensure needy children in the U.S. can access food. For instance, school lunch and summer feeding program enhancements made by McGovern and his colleagues in the Congress need to be followed through by the current representatives.

The bipartisan cooperation that McGovern writes about is especially critical as hunger rates in the U.S. are rising. Vicki Escarra, President of Feeding America says: “The need for food assistance has increased dramatically during the prolonged and severe recession. Hunger hits every state and county in America, with one in six people facing food insecurity… strong federal nutrition assistance programs will continue to be essential.”

Funding for domestic and overseas food aid is very much on the line currently in Congress. McGovern’s book offers hope in this difficult period by reviewing past achievements in the struggle to end hunger. At the same time, he is looking forward to what should be done next to defeat man’s ancient enemy

Originally published as McGovern’s The Third Freedom: Ending Hunger in Our Time is Essential Reading as Congress Debates Food Aid at Blogcritics Magazine

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