Former President Bill Clinton was in Haiti last week as part of his ongoing efforts to help the earthquake-devastated country rebuild. Stephanie Tremblay, a UN World Food Programme (WFP) officer, interviewed him about the vital role of school feeding in the reconstruction process.
Clinton emphasized that school meals are the best and sometimes the only meal that many impoverished Haitian children get all day. The food is a nutrition lifeline and allows them a chance to get an education.
In the interview Clinton mentions an international school meals plan that was started in his last year in office. This is the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program, named after former senators George McGovern and Robert Dole.
The McGovern-Dole program funds school feeding programs in developing countries and Haiti is currently one of the beneficiaries. And as Clinton says, when there are school meals provided, it makes a big difference in terms of nutrition and education.
McGovern-Dole has not received much funding in recent years. However, the program was recently spared during the round of budget cuts just approved by Congress. It had been previously slated for a cut. In the age of ever-increasing partisan politics, McGovern-Dole is an area where both political parties can meet and agree.
The potential for what McGovern-Dole can achieve is enormous, if it only could get the political will behind it. In Haiti, McGovern-Dole funding is helping the UN World Food Programme feed over a million children. This can be the beginning of building a national school lunch program.
In Afghanistan, World Vision has run a successful school meals program in two provinces. In Kenya, McGovern-Dole is playing a leading role in supporting children not yet covered by the country's homegrown feeding program.
Why not expand these efforts to reach more children and more countries? It's a relatively inexpensive program and food for education is a winner on many levels.