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Lobby in the U.S. and advocate with legislators to keep the McGovern-Dole program fully funded. This is an incredibly important program.

Interview: Brenda Urizar of Catholic Relief Services in Guatemala

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) fights hunger in Guatemala, which is one of 45 countries needing emergency food assistance according to the U.S. Famine Warning System.

School meals, funded by the U.S. McGovern-Dole program, are provided by CRS there. McGovern-Dole is operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and sponsors school meals across the globe. However, McGovern-Dole at risk of being eliminated because of the new budget proposal by the Trump administration.

Recently Brenda Urizar, the head of Food for Education for CRS Guatemala, answered some questions about the importance of these school lunches for children and the impact of McGovern-Dole.

How many children are receiving school meals from CRS in Guatemala?

An average of about 16,000 male students and 15,000 female students received school meals every day during the beginning of the 2017 school year. In total, the number of students reached in Guatemala through CRS this school year has been about 31,000.  In the 2018 school year, this number is expected to grow to about 49,000 children under the donor-approved budget.

Students of the Paronchaj primary school in Totonicapán, Guatemala, enjoy a school lunch made possible by USDA through CRS as part of the Learning for Life Bilingual Primary Education program. This community is almost entirely comprised of an indigenous population that faces higher rates of poverty and unemployment in Guatemala.(Photo by David Snyder/Catholic Relief Services)

Are the school meals funded by the United States McGovern-Dole program?

 Yes, all school meals are funded by the U.S. McGovern-Dole program.

Can you describe the impact of the meals in terms of child nutrition and class attendance?

The nutritious, daily school meals provided by the McGovern-Dole program has a huge impact on children. Per our 2014 baseline, about 20 percent of students expressed that they were not hungry during the school day. In the 2015 mid-term evaluation, that number jumped to 80% of students who expressed that they were not hungry during the school day. This demonstrates the huge effect that school meals have on reducing immediate hunger. In addition, reducing daily hunger has a logical effect on student attentiveness, as students can better focus on lessons during the school day. Project results reinforce this, showing that students involved in CRS-Guatemala’s program experienced an increase in attentiveness and in school attendance. Additionally, school meals combined with a strong, bilingual (Spanish and Maya K’iche’) reading comprehension program have increased the percentage of students reading at grade level.

Is there enough funding to continue the meals the rest of the year?

There is enough funding to continue with the complete school feeding program through this school year, which ends in October, 2017.

How can someone help CRS?

Lobby in the U.S. and advocate with legislators to keep the McGovern-Dole program fully funded. This is an incredibly important program.

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.

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