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What McGovern-Dole can Mean to Yemen, Afghanistan and Haiti

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Yemen, Haiti and Afghanistan are countries very high on U.S. foreign policy priorities. The three nations face very different challenges, but share two tragic things in common — high rates of malnourished and uneducated children.

Neither of these two scenarios make it possible for these countries to rebuild their lands and maintain peace. We have a mechanism in place in our government that can help them: The McGovern-Dole school meals program. The House recently voted to cut this program in half, reducing our funding of school meals abroad.

The budget cuts, if they stand, do great damage to our foreign policy. Congressman Jim McGovern recently condemned the cuts, stating, “This isn’t a question of charity. It’s an issue of national security – of what happens when desperate people can’t find or afford food, and the anger that comes from people who see no future for their children except poverty and death.”

In Yemen, the World Food Programme (WFP) wants to provide rations to 115,000 schoolgirls and their families. This would boost class attendance and reduce the education gender gap in the country. It would provide food to over 900,000 people when you factor in the families.

Remember, Yemen is a country where 1 in 3 people suffer from hunger. This is a country where some families spend 30 percent of their monthly income on bread. The WFP Food for Education, if consistently funded, could provide some stability and most of all hope, for the poorest country in the Middle East. McGovern-Dole could be one source of funding for this program.

In Afghanistan, World Vision uses McGovern-Dole funding for its school meals program. We could expand this funding to other programs, including the UN World Food Programme’s school feeding and also rations for street children to help them integrate into the education system.

In Haiti, the World Food Programme is using a McGovern-Dole grant that will run out in 2012. What kind of funding will be available then? We want to build Haiti’s national school feeding program. If we run out of funding, we could lose gains made toward this goal.

By strengthening our commitment to McGovern-Dole, we can also encourage other donor countries to boost their support of school feeding. We are seeing some of this in Haiti where Brazil has provided support to the school milk program run by WFP.

Whether it is hunger in the U.S. or far away in Afghanistan, it can be dealt with if there is the will. Fighting hunger is also one of the most relatively inexpensive investments that can be made.

If we are looking to make sound investments in foreign policy, then school feeding is the place to go. America has a long tradition of school feeding, notably after the two world wars and through the Food for Peace years. We don’t want to extinguish this tradition now. Let’s hope the Congress realizes this as it plans the upcoming budgets.

Visit the World Food Program USA page to contact Congress about supporting food aid programs.

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.