The Senate Agriculture Committee recently voted to cut mandatory funding for McGovern-Dole on the 2007 Farm Bill. This is the program that provides school lunches to children in impoverished countries. Within weeks the Farm Bill will be finalized and if the Senate Agriculture Committee’s decision stands, McGovern-Dole will suffer a setback in building a global school lunch program.
Countries like Afghanistan, Kenya, and Pakistan all benefit from school lunch programs sponsored by McGovern-Dole. School lunches not only fight child hunger, but also increase school attendance and performance rates. With healthier, educated children nations are more likely to progress and build peaceful, stable societies.
Charities like Catholic Relief Services, C.A.R.E, Food for the Poor and the UN World Food Program carry out the school lunch programs. With 300 million children suffering from hunger there is a tremendous need for school lunch initiatives in developing countries. However, most of the McGovern-Dole applications by the aforementioned charities are denied by the United States Department of Agriculture. There is simply not enough funding allocated by Congress to McGovern-Dole.
This summer the House of Representatives sought to change that by approving mandatory funding for McGovern-Dole, increasing its annual budget from the present 100 million to 300 million over the next 5 years. A guaranteed minimum level of funding would be provided each year giving the program security. The mandatory increase would be a commitment to providing more school lunches to children in developing countries. It would be a show of U.S. leadership in building a global school lunch program by assuring a consistent level of financial support. Certainly in countries like Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti and Burundi there is going to be a need for school lunch programs as part of the reconstruction of society.
The Senate Agriculture Committee went against the House in late October when drafting its version of the Farm Bill. The Senate Committee removed the mandatory language and decided to make McGovern-Dole spending a year-by-year decision, leaving the future of the school lunch program in doubt.
As the Farm Bill is finalized in the coming weeks, there is going to be debate in the Senate about McGovern-Dole and other issues. It is not too late to change the outcome for the school lunch program. The Friends of the UN World Food Program is urging citizens to contact their Senators about giving mandatory funding to the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program.