During World War II American soldiers witnessed the tragedy of children struggling to find food for survival. This experience had a lasting impact on many, including General Dwight Eisenhower. Ike, in a series of appeals for the United Nations in 1948, emphasized that eliminating child hunger was crucial to world peace. Eisenhower believed that children who spend their young lives struggling to find sustenance, searching through “garbage heaps” as he put it, would become “wedded to the philosophy of force.”
Today, Eisenhower’s message is still very much relevant in a world where over 300 million children suffer from hunger. The Congress can take action to help these children by expanding the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program.
The McGovern-Dole program, named after former senators Bob Dole and George McGovern, provides school lunches to children in impoverished nations. For many kids the school lunches are the only meal they receive the entire day. The school lunches encourage parents to send their kids to school instead of keeping them home to work. Take-home rations are also a component of the initiative. Charities such as CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Food for the Poor and the United Nations World Food Programme carry out the school lunch programs.
Currently, McGovern-Dole reaches about 3 million children. But many school feeding proposals by the aforementioned charities are denied because there simply is not enough funding available. A House Bill (H.R. 1616) and a Senate version (S. 946) aim to increase the yearly funding for McGovern-Dole from 100 million to 300 million over the next 5 years.
The applications of a strongly funded McGovern-Dole program are numerous. More school lunches could be provided to children in Southern Sudan, a region recovering from decades of Civil War. In 2006, the World Food Programme conducted a pilot school feeding program in North Darfur. One can imagine school lunch programs being an important part of peacekeeping and reconstruction throughout Darfur. In Afghanistan, a country struggling to build a democracy and peace after years of conflict, school lunches are vital to reconstruction. The United States, with its allies, should ensure that every child in Afghanistan can obtain school lunches and take-home rations.
For the United States, providing school lunches around the world will build much needed goodwill in this age of terrorism.
As Eisenhower noted back in 1948, “If we are serious about saying that we want to travel the road to peace….how can we attempt to say that we are traveling that road unless we do everything that lies within our power to create conditions in which peace may flourish. We must eliminate starvation – we must see that children are well nourished.”
Today, we must ask ourselves if we are doing everything we can to promote peace. If we do not vigorously combat child hunger, then the answer to that question is no. Eliminating child hunger is of paramount importance in the quest for peace.
Expanding the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program is taking a major step in the fight against child hunger. We must hope the opportunity is not missed by those in power today.