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How Sustainable is the McGovern-Dole Program?

The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program was established in 2000 by former Senators George McGovern and Robert Dole. It has fed millions of children all over the globe by way of school meals made from surplus U.S. agricultural products. In 2006, McGovern and Dole were awarded the World Food Prize for their work on the program. This award is seen as the “Nobel Prize for hunger.”

The program is credited with helping improve school attendance as well as feeding the hungry, as free school meals provide families with an extra incentive to send their children to school. This is especially the case for girls, as parents sometimes decide to keep them home from school to do housework.

McGovern-Dole has made recent news because the Trump administration’s 2018 budget outline proposes eliminating the program, citing that it “lacks evidence that it is being effectively implemented to reduce food insecurity.”

Forbes contributor Tim Worstall contends Trump’s claim that McGovern-Dole fails to reduce food insecurity is accurate. He points out that because McGovern-Dole consists only of food donations, it lacks sustainability, doing nothing to inject money into local economies or help farmers grow their crops. Although the program feeds people effectively, it is not a long-term solution to ending hunger locally.

This being said, McGovern-Dole does have sustainability measures in place, though they may not address food insecurity directly. The program is concerned with education. All meals through the program are offered through schools. This allows McGovern-Dole to track data such as the number of kids taking medication or learning to read at school. This helps other education-centered organizations focus their efforts. McGovern-Dole also implements teacher training, school infrastructure improvements and nutrition programs for pregnant women in the communities it serves.

Alternatives to direct food aid programs are not always reliable. The cash-based transfer, a form of assistance by which individuals in need receive bank transfers or vouchers to exchange for food at stores owned by the World Food Programme, is ineffective in communities with extremely unstable markets or bank services. Direct food aid like McGovern-Dole provides hungry individuals with food regardless of the state of the market in a community.

Caroline Meyers

Photo: Flickr