Two international development initiatives, Food for Progress and the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program are up for reauthorization before Congress.
Food for Progress supports countries trying to build free enterprise systems. This is not a well-known program but it does help charities such as FINCA. (Foundation for International Community Assistance)
FINCA gives loans to low-income individuals in impoverished countries so that they may start their own businesses. Food for Progress donates wheat to FINCA, who then sells the food within nations like Uganda and Zambia. The proceeds from the sales are used to help fund the village bank loans.
But many charities who apply for Food for Progress commodities are denied. According to Ellen Levinson of the Alliance for Food Aid, “Many poor, developing countries are undergoing economic reform and, therefore, the demand for Food for Progress programs is great.” By allocating more agricultural commodities to Food for Progress, Congress can support economic growth overseas, a requirement for building stability and peace.
Catholic Relief Services has just applied for Food for Progress funding to institute a project that would include building roads in Afghanistan. It is critical to connect all sectors of a developing economy, particularly farmers and markets. The food can potentially be used as an incentive to Afghans constructing the roads.
The McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program provides school meals to children in impoverished countries like Afghanistan, Kenya and Guatemala. (also see this previous article) Charities such as CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Food for the Poor, and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) carry out the distribution of the meals. The meals serve as an incentive for kids to attend school and the program has been very successful in this regard. Many kids in poor countries struggle to get one good meal a day so this program is a life-changing event for them. Take-home rations are also included. Currently, McGovern-Dole reaches about 3 million children but worldwide 110 million school age children suffer from hunger.
The Friends of the UN World Food Program is leading the effort to expand the McGovern-Dole initiative. There is a House Bill (HR. 1616) and a Senate version (S.946) that aim to make annual McGovern-Dole funding mandatory, increasing from 100 million to 300 million over the next five years. However, the House Agriculture Committee recently voted to make McGovern-Dole funding discretionary rather than mandatory. In other words, there is no certainty that McGovern-Dole funding will be increased from year to year thus leaving many school feeding programs in jeopardy. There should be debate on both McGovern-Dole and Food for Progress when Congress takes up the Farm Bill this week.