There are multiple issues that contribute to the cycle of poverty, including poor economic circumstances, food insecurity, access to education, conflict, and a host of other things. So what is the best approach to tackle a big problem? Programs that do not just tackle one issue but instead look at finding a holistic solution. The McGovern–Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program does just that by “provid[ing] for the donation of U.S. agricultural commodities, as well as financial and technical assistance, to support school feeding and maternal and child nutrition projects.” Unfortunately, the McGovern-Dole program is one of the many that faces cuts in the fiscal year 2018 despite its success over the last 15 years in helping over 14 million children.
World Vision is implementing multiple McGovern-Dole projects, so the success of this program has been seen up close. An example of these programs was implemented in Afghanistan from 2003-2014 and helped mothers and children receive education and nutritional care through the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) program. This ECCD program provided a rare opportunity for many of these women to participate in educational activities outside of their home. They learned about maternal health and nutrition, built bonds with other women, received programmatic resources, and were able to prepare their young children for entry into primary school. One of the strongest indicators to illustrate the program’s success was the high daily attendance rate for the education and nutritional classes for both mothers and children. ECCD centers had 95-100 percent daily attendance rates for program participants. This high attendance was maintained because the program provided strong educational curriculum and resources. There were also positive educational outcomes for children at targeted schools such as strong enrollment, attendance, and school continuation. Overall, the average number of students present in class increased by 50 percent.
Advocating for Vulnerable Children:
A few months ago, Robert Dole, one of the Senators whom this bill was named after, spoke The Washington Post about the benefits of these projects.
“Eliminating the McGovern-Dole program would have a disastrous effect on the planet’s most vulnerable children. Without a reliable source of nutrition, these children face a lifetime of stunted physical and mental development and unrealized opportunity. This global school meals program remains one of the proudest achievements of my lifetime. It embodies the very best of America’s values. Saving this program means saving lives. It’s as simple as that.”
More recently, Congressman Jim McGovern (no relation to George McGovern whom the bill was named after) advocated for these programs in an address to the House floor saying, “Speaker, working through partners like the World Food Program, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, Save the Children, Counterpart International and many, more, McGovern-Dole has reduced the incidence of hunger among school-age children. It has increased school enrollments and attendance. It has increased the support of families and communities for education, especially for girls. It is a proven success. Instead of eliminating it, we should be strengthening and expanding it.”
Watch Congressman McGovern’s Full Address:
- Over the past 15 years, the George McGovern-Robert Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program has provided life-saving meals in school settings to over 14 million of the world’s most vulnerable children. (00:20)
- This bipartisan-supported program provides U.S. and international organizations with U.S. commodities, grants, and technical assistance to strengthen child nutrition and education. (00:28)
- The president’s FY 2018 budget would cruelly eliminate the entire program, which was named after two senators who worked in a bipartisan way during their long tenures in the Senate to end hunger, especially among children, in the United States and around the world. (00:45)
- And when we take food away from children, families, and schools, those communities will never forget us either. They won’t forget that we took away their children’s future. I wouldn’t forget if it were my child. Would you? (04:37)
Children, mothers, and families are grateful for the opportunity to take part in these programs that give them a hand-up rather than a handout. McGovern shared that a mother came up to him when he was visiting one of the projects in Columbia and said:
“Please thank the American people when you go back home. I couldn’t feed my children. I couldn’t send them to school. I was afraid my son was going to join the paramilitaries or the guerrillas just to get food. Now my son is getting fed and he’s staying in school. Please tell the American people thank you.”
How will you show your support and provide a hand-up for these children?
Photo: Children in an ECCD class in Afganistan. © 2015 World Vision/ photo by Narges Ghafary