Cincinnati public schools are setting an example by providing free breakfasts for their students. Charlie Kozlesky of the Children’s Hunger Alliance of Ohio hopes “that positive gains in Cincinnati will continue to Columbus, Cleveland and the other Urban 21 School Districts.”
Let’s hope that the emphasis on nutrition and education also makes its way to the Halls of Congress. The House is considering a bill (H.R. 5504) which would strengthen the federal school lunch and breakfast program. The goal is to get more needy children taking part in these long established programs.
As an example, in Cuyahoga County, Ohio in 2009 “76.9% of Cuyahoga county’s low-income eligible students participated in the school lunch program, while just 34.4% participated in the school breakfast program. 9.8% of eligible students participated in summer meal programs.” (102,111 eligible students)
H.R. 5504 would also expand after-school meals and summer feeding. This is an important safety net on the home front, and a sound investment in the nation’s future.
Project Bread in Massachusetts emphasizes the need for expanding summer feeding noting in their state, “On average, 50,325 breakfasts and lunches were served each day to low-income children at 839 sites in the summer of 2008.This is less than 18 percent of the number of school lunches that are served statewide to low-income children during the school year,which tells us there is room for growth.”
Project Bread says that the safety nets of school lunch and breakfast “are examples of antihunger efforts that simultaneously protect tens of thousands of low-income children from food insecurity while boosting their health and capacity to learn.”
On the foreign policy front, nutrition also needs to be emphasized on a much greater level. Child hunger, malnutrition and lack of education do not advance the cause of peace and development in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan and many other countries.
The McGovern-Dole Food For Education program should receive more funding from Congress. The World Food Programme, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision and other charities need McGovern-Dole funding to consistently provide school meals in developing countries.
It is hard for these nutrition issues, especially overseas, to get on the radar. As Dwight Eisenhower once said, “The world cups its ear to hear the rattling of rockets. It listens less closely to the sounds of peace and well-being which emanate from the slow but steady improvement in world health and nutrition.”
As a result, overseas child feeding programs are often drastically underfunded, even though they are relatively inexpensive. Meanwhile, you see astronomical budgets for nuclear weapons programs even in a post-Cold War world. The Global Security Priorities Resolution in Congress says this imbalance needs to change.
Citizens should expect their representatives in Congress to emphasize nutrition and education, both at home and in our foreign policy. A good start would be supporting H.R. 5504 and expanding the McGovern-Dole program.