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The McGovern-Dole school feeding program would be eliminated under President Trump's new budget proposal.

Interview: Lorene Didier of the World Food Programme in Haiti

Haiti is one of the 45 nations needing emergency food assistance this year, according to the US Famine Warning System. Natural disasters, including Hurricane Matthew, have worsened food shortages in the impoverished nation.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is Haiti’s lifeline for overcoming hunger. WFP provides children with school meals to reduce hunger and improve class attendance.

School feeding in Haiti is one of the most important of the World Food Programme’s projects. The meals reduce malnutrition while improving class attendance and performance. (WFP/Lorene Didier)

One the major sources of funding for school feeding in Haiti is the McGovern-Dole program run by the United States Department of Agriculture. However, McGovern-Dole is to be eliminated under a new budget proposal from the President of the United States. The United States Congress does have a chance to save McGovern-Dole funding for Haiti and other impoverished nations.

We can learn more about school feeding in Haiti and the impact of McGovern-Dole funding in this interview with Lorene Didier of the World Food Programme.

For the current school year you are reaching 400,000 students with school meals, almost half of which is provided by McGovern-Dole funding.

Correct. We are distributing 400,000 hot meals every day to school children, among which 175,000 are funded directly by McGovern Dole.

Is there enough funding for the school meals starting next school year?

Without further funding, WFP will have no other choice than to reduce the number of school children reached in the 2017/18 school year by 15%, which means WFP will no longer be able to provide daily meals to 60,000 school children in Haiti next school year.

Is food from local Haiti farms being provided with any of these meals?

We are procuring local commodities such as rice, salt and maize meal. In 2016, WFP was able to purchase 1,753 tons of locally grown rice. WFP is also distributing meals to 7,000 children in the department of Nippes prepared with 100% of locally grown food, including fresh vegetables. This provides local farmers with a predictable outlet for their products, leading to a stable income, more investments and higher productivity. The children enjoy healthy, diversified meals; this makes it more likely that they will stay in school, perform better and improve their adult job prospects. Next year, WFP will increase the number of school children receiving 100% local school meals from 7,000 to 15,000.

Is summer feeding going to be provided so the students don’t lose the meal when school closes?

WFP will not be able to implement summer feeding as we have to prioritize the limited funding available to provide meals to children at school during the school year.

Grande Anse after Hurricane Matthew struck in the fall of 2016. (WFP/Lorene Didier)

What has the impact of school meals been in areas where the hurricane struck? Have the meals reduced malnutrition and improved attendance?

WFP is currently distributing school meals to 27,000 children in Grande Anse, the most affected department by Hurricane Matthew. In Grande Anse many families of farmers lost all their crops and food stocks after the hurricane and many of them will not be able to provide sufficient food for their families until at least the next harvest in June 2017. It is therefore crucial for children to be able to have access to at least one nutritious meal a day at school to help ensure they are not too hungry or malnourished.

In addition to school meals, WFP is distributing specialized food to 27,000 children and 25,000 pregnant and nursing women in order to prevent malnutrition in the most hurricane affected areas. This is complemented by a family ration benefiting around 126,000 persons.

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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