In Tanzania, Africa, many children struggle just to get a meal. Tanzania has suffered from reoccurring droughts throughout the region that make farming difficult and food scarce. However, since 2002, the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program has provided school meals of rice and beans for more than 100,000 students a day throughout the country.

With the proper amount of food, the students have more energy and are able to focus on their schoolwork. School attendance rates have increased since the program was installed. The Food for Education program isn’t limited to Tanzania; it has also reached hundreds of thousands of students in Guatemala, Bolivia and Nicaragua. Overall, the program has reached 40 million students in 24 countries.

The McGovern-Dole Food for Education program does more than just provide school lunches. It also plants school gardens, teaches farming techniques, and involves parents in cooking and donating food in order to allow local communities to take responsibility for school meals.

Due to the severe droughts in Tanzania, prices for basic groceries have increased significantly. The droughts have also put a large strain on livestock because of the lack of water and pastures. Maize prices rose by 25 percent in a 12-month period beginning in 2016.

The McGovern-Dole Food for Education program doesn’t limit itself to improving the wellbeing of schoolchildren. It helps families of all stages by offering nutrition programs for pregnant and nursing women, infants and preschoolers. These programs are run by nonprofits and the United Nations World Food Program.

The U.S. budget proposal for the next year has zeroed out the funding for the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program. The meals these students need to thrive in school are now at risk of disappearing, although according to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, Congress seems to be leaning toward a rejection of the administration’s proposal.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

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