The items being cut in the new House budget include an international school meals initiative called the McGovern-Dole Program. The House trimmed McGovern-Dole from about $209.5 million down to $100 million.
The effects of these cuts will be felt in developing countries. According to the World Food Program USA, “Approximately 2.5 million young children in school benefiting from McGovern-Dole would lose their daily school meal and with it, their chance for a better future.”
School feeding in Tajikistan (World Food Programme photo)
Paul Macek of World Vision says, “What is clear is that any cut of this magnitude would be disastrous for the children and their families who rely on the meal their children receive in school to support their attendance. The removal of such incentives often has a disproportionate impact on the poor, and on girls in particular, as families find it extremely difficult to send their children to school without the incentive of food.”
World Vision has been running a McGovern-Dole program in the Provinces of Badghis and Ghor in Afghanistan. The program has boosted attendance rates by providing nutritious rations at school.
It is this type of program that should be expanded throughout all of Afghanistan, for all children. Child feeding is a basic tenet of reconstruction and peacemaking in a country.
The current House budget dramatically weakens the McGovern-Dole Program with no thought given to what this program could mean to so many countries.
General Douglas MacArthur ordered massive child feeding programs during the reconstruction in Japan. This was carried over into the Food for Peace years under President Dwight Eisenhower. School meals played a big role in Japan’s recovery after World War II. It’s a story worth repeating again in other countries.
The Congress should give more thought to what a program like McGovern-Dole could mean, rather than recklessly cutting a program that is a relatively tiny part of the foreign affairs budget.
Think of what school meals for children could mean for so many countries. It’s healthier, more educated children. More apostles for peace, as Dwight Eisenhower once put it. A U.S. and international effort to give every child in the world a school meal would be the best public diplomacy tool there could be.
Cutting McGovern-Dole might save a relatively tiny amount of money now. Down the road it will prove very costly as more children and families around the world will be plunged into desperation.
Instead, let’s think of how to get every child in Haiti a school meal. Let’s work with our international partners to ensure universal child feeding in Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, and other countries. School meals are the unsung hero of American foreign policy over the years. Congress: do not let school feeding programs fade away.