Statement of W. Kirk Miller, General Sales Manager
Foreign Agricultural Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Congressional Human Rights Caucus
Members Session on International School Feeding Programs
Chaired by Rep. James P. McGovern
June 24, 2004
Mr. McGovern, and members of the caucus, I am pleased to submit this statement on the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program.
As a leader in agricultural production, the United States has long recognized its responsibility to assist in alleviating world hunger through food donations, financial aid, and technical assistance. The United States, the world’s leading provider of food assistance, began providing food aid in the 1920s. This year we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954, commonly known as Public Law 480 (P.L. 480) or the Food for Peace Program. This was the first legislative authority to create a specific U.S. agricultural commodity overseas aid program.
The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child nutrition program builds on those efforts and combines two key initiatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture – school feeding and foreign food assistance programs. The program is based on, and replaced, the Global Food for Education Initiative. That initiative, launched in December 2000, was designed to promote better nutrition and school enrollment in poor countries. USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service and the Food and Nutrition Service worked closely with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Education, the World Food Program (WFP), and private voluntary organizations to deliver about 800,000 tons of U.S. commodities that were used to provide nutritious school meals to nearly 7 million school children in 38 countries.
The McGovern-Dole International Food For Education Program
The McGovern-Dole program was named in honor of two former U.S. Senators, Senators George McGovern and Bob Dole, who worked tirelessly on behalf of U.S. school feeding, and more recently, for a global food for education program.
The major objectives of the program are to reduce hunger and improve literacy and access to primary education, especially for girls. The focus is on low-income countries striving to ensure an education for all children. The WFP estimates that there are more than 300 million chronically hungry school-age children in poor countries. Of these, perhaps 170 million go off to school hungry. Another 130 million children – 60 percent of them girls – do not attend school.
An estimated 2.2 million beneficiaries received meals and take home rations under the FY 2003 program, which is still on-going in some countries. These resources, together with the $50 million Congress appropriated for the FY 2004 program are reaching an additional 1.5 million beneficiaries. Given the program’s success and high demand, the Administration has requested a 50-percent above the 2004 funding level of $75 million for FY 2005.
The program provides for donations of U.S. agricultural commodities, as well as financial and technical assistance. The commodities provided include wheat, flour, rice, soybean oil, sunflowerseed oil, buckwheat, dehydrated potatoes, cornmeal, lentils and other pulses, raisins, dry milk, and corn among others. Some of the commodities are used for direct feeding such as to prepare school meals, and some are sold in local markets in the designated country, which generates jobs in local mills and bakeries.
Funds from these sales are then used to purchase local foods that may be more appropriate, provide funds to operate the feeding projects, and finance related projects, such as building school kitchens, purchasing supplies (e.g., books or kitchen equipment), training teachers, forming local parent-teacher associations to involve parents, and providing nutrition education.
How the Program Works
In 2003/04, USDA received 81 proposals from private charitable organizations, the WFP, and two governments to conduct projects in 54 countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe.
Project proposals are evaluated based on several criteria, including the organization’s experience with related projects, technical feasibility of the project, the number of children who will benefit, and the additional resources available from other sources. One important feature of the program is the emphasis on sustainability. Projects must include a plan for sustaining the school feeding or nutrition efforts beyond dependence on USDA assistance. In addition, USDA works to make sure that donations of U.S. products will not hurt local farmers or disrupt commercial sales within recipient countries.
Projects are targeted to each country’s needs. For example, in Afghanistan, World Vision’s program is distributing food to 37,000 children and 675 teachers in two northern provinces. Children in primary schools are receiving take-home food packages to increase their nutritional status. This program is also improving the quality of instruction and the level of community support by providing food packages to teachers, providing classroom kits, furnishing classrooms, constructing nine new schools and promoting school gardens.
In Nicaragua, Project Concern International, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education and the Fabretto Children’s Foundation will distribute commodities to 230 schools with an estimated 33,000 students, and to 460 teachers and 460 parents. School attendance has reportedly doubled since implementation of the school feeding programs.
While we have not yet completed evaluating the first year of the McGovern-Dole program, our evaluations of the Global Food for Education pilot program showed solid improvements in school enrollment, including increased access for girls. Teachers, administrators, and parents reported improved concentration, energy, and performance by students.
Looking to the Future
Reducing hunger and improving literacy are global challenges, and meeting those challenges will require a global effort. We’ve experienced some marked successes in our efforts to involve other donors in helping achieve our goal of global school feeding. For example, the European Union (EU) has worked with USAID to provide technical assistance to the Peruvian Ministry of Education to conduct its national school-feeding program. The German Agency for Technical Cooperation and the Japanese Development Agency have worked together in Guinea to fund development activities in the education sector (e.g. parent/teacher training and vitamin provisions) that will support WFP school feeding and enrollment efforts. Canada and the EU have provided funds to support girls’ take-home rations and additional efforts to solicit greater community involvement in Pakistan. The EU, Japan, and non-EU European countries are major financial donors to WFP programs in Nepal, Pakistan, and many other countries around the world. The World Health Organization and non-governmental organizations have also provided support.
The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program has been a positive contribution to our efforts to combat hunger and illiteracy. As Secretary Veneman has said, "This program will do more than fill empty stomachs and improve child nutrition. It will bring hope and opportunity through education to some of the world’s poorest children."