William Lambers: Congress should fund school lunches for poor kids abroad





[William Lambers is the author of "The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty." He also writes for the History News Service. For more information on McGovern-Dole program: www. friendsofwfp.org.]

After World War II, the United States sponsored the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild war-torn Europe. Food aid, medicine and reconstruction efforts vastly improved the lives of the children on that continent.

Today, the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program carries on the U.S. tradition of helping the world's children. This program, named for former senators George McGovern and Bob Dole, provides school lunches to children in impoverished countries. Millions of children have benefited from these school lunches, but many millions more go without.

Like the Marshall Plan of the late 1940s, the McGovern-Dole program is in need of adequate funding to truly maximize its potential. In 2007, the new Congress will have an opportunity to strengthen and grow this program.

How McGovern-Dole works is quite simple. A daily lunch is provided to every child who attends school in a participating country. For many children this is the only meal they receive the entire day. The benefits of having this school lunch are therefore enormous.

A child who eats will be healthier and better able to concentrate on school lessons. Parents in poverty-stricken countries will be more

likely to send their children to school with the promise of food aid. In some cases, take-home rations will bolster this food aid incentive.
The benefits to America's image are also substantial. Take for instance school feeding programs in Afghanistan, a country that is in the front line of the war on terrorism. McGovern-Dole supports school lunch initiatives in Afghanistan such as the one operated by the charity World Vision. This program boosts school attendance of Afghan children and helps improve their education.

The McGovern-Dole program is an investment in the future of underprivileged countries. School lunches help fuel the education and future of children in these nations. But without increased and steady funding, millions of children will not be nourished.

Congress has a choice. It can vote to make certain that school feeding programs in Afghanistan and around the globe are strengthened and expanded. Or Congress can (decide) school feeding (is not) a priority and leave millions of children worldwide with one less ray of hope.



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