Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has a long history of supporting school meals around the world, dating back to the World War II era. Now CRS is calling on Congress to fund the McGovern-Dole global school meals program at $250 million dollars this year. Previous funding levels are around $200 million.
School meals make foreign policy sense. Sean Callahan of CRS recently stated before Congress, “Education and nutrition are inextricably linked to future economic growth.”
That is why CRS wants to see the McGovern-Dole initiative expanded. Haiti, Afghanistan and many other countries need support for school feeding. In Mali, where conflict and drought have devastated the lives of millions, school meals are a big part of aiding children.
McGovern-Dole funding is allowing CRS to provide school meals in war-devastated Mali, where poverty rates are high. (Kristina Brayman/CRS)
CRS received a McGovern-Dole grant for Mali and it’s making a difference. At last report, CRS is “currently serving 310 schools in two regions and approximately 58,000 beneficiaries.” CRS provides meals as well as vitamins and medications to the school children.
Callahan adds, “The program has helped to increase school enrollment for girls by 41% and for boys by 22%. On average, students attended school 95% of the days classes were held.”
The CRS Mali program also has elements of local food production for providing the meals. This is key. Where possible, the food for school meals needs to come from local sources. This helps communities and furthers the stability of the program so that continued aid is not needed.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) also is providing school meals in Mali. The UN food agency relies on voluntary funding but often struggles to receive it. Expanding McGovern-Dole, for instance, could allow an opportunity to support WFP and its school feeding in Mali.
The Congress will have an opportunity to increase the McGovern-Dole funding in the upcoming Farm Bill legislation.
Video: Ending Child Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World.