The U.S. military has a storied tradition not only in heroism on the battlefield, but also in the tasks of peace and reconstruction. School feeding is one of the greatest examples of this work.
Army reporter Nicole Dalrymple wrote recently about Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Gary Morris and his initiative in helping provide school meals to children in Liberia at the Margretia School.
Morris, who is serving as a military advisor to Liberia, visited the mud-hut school in 2009 and learned that no lunches were available for the children. The kids had to bring their own food.
Keep in mind that Liberia is a country recovering from a civil war and much of its population lives below the poverty line. Access to food is a challenge for many families.
Dalrymple writes, “Perhaps it was Morris' experience as a young child in Jamaica, walking to school in his bare feet and picking fruit from the trees for breakfast, but Morris knew what was needed for these kids. It was then that he began making regular trips to the school, bringing bags of rice and cooking oil and providing all the items needed to feed the children's lunch.”
Morris not only started up the program, but has educated others to help continue it once he moves on to other assignments. Ensuring school meals is a valuable safety net for these children and their families.
Liberia is one of the many impoverished countries that desperately needs a national school lunch program as a foundation for its future.
In 2009 I interviewed Louis Imbleau, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) country director in Liberia. WFP was reaching over 500,000 children but lack of funding and logistics were making it harder to expand the program. The government lacked the resources to build its own national school lunch program, so the help of WFP was needed.
Liberia has been selected as one of the first countries to benefit from President Obama’s “Feed the Future” initiative. A major focus of this plan will be expanding the school feeding within Liberia and building a sustainable program.
Obama’s program would emphasize the local production of food to be the supplier of the school feeding.
This will ensure that the current work by Sergeant Morris, WFP and other charities can be transformed into a Liberian national school lunch program. This effort needs to be replicated in other countries as well.
For around the globe today, so many children struggle to get one meal a day. These children are in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan and many other countries. This hunger crisis leaves these kids vulnerable to physical and mental problems from lack of nutrition. This in turns reduces their chance for an education, the very thing they and their country need to advance.
All children around the globe should have access to school meals. If there are enough people like Sergeant Morris around, a global school lunch program can become a reality.