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USDA’s Food for Education Program Continues to Benefit Health of World’s Citizens

Clemence, a teacher from Ogondougou School, displays the peanuts grown in the school garden to be used as a condiment in the meal provided by USDA.

Clemence, a teacher from Ogondougou School, displays the peanuts grown in the school garden to be used as a condiment in the meal provided by USDA (CRS/Carmen Matty-Cervantes).

A group of schoolchildren wait patiently in line to get their lunch. This ritual takes place in schools all over the world. But for the children in Mali, a country ranked 160 out of 169 of the poorest countries in the world, this may be their one nutritious meal for the day. With the number of chronically hungry people surpassing one billion, a sustainable approach is necessary to answer the call of those in need. USDA’s McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program answers that call and works to not only feed the world’s hungry, but also improve the nutrition and education of children around the world.

At noon each day, the students line up and eagerly wait for their turn to get their plate full of rice and split peas thanks to USDA.

At noon each day, the students line up and eagerly wait for their turn to get their plate full of rice and split peas thanks to USDA (CRS/Carmen Matty-Cervantes).

The McGovern-Dole Program supports education, child development and food security in low-income, food-deficit countries that are committed to universal education. It provides for donations of U.S. agricultural products, as well as financial and technical assistance for school feeding and maternal and child nutrition projects. Currently, USDA funds 36 active agreements with 17 cooperating sponsors in 28 countries, assisting more than five million beneficiaries. To date, the Program has provided meals to more than 22 million children.

Since 2007, Catholic Relief Services, with the help of the McGovern-Dole program, has played a large role in improving the lives of children and their families in Mali, a country with a population of more than 12.5 million. The United Nations recently reported that 10 percent of the total population was undernourished and that 38 percent of pre-school aged children are physically stunted. In light of Mali’s situation, this McGovern-Dole project has enhanced the welfare of targeted communities through improving access to food and education for children.

By the end of the 2010 fiscal year, the 2007 CRS/Mali program had directly impacted the lives of over 45,000 individuals in Mali. In promoting the health of students, teachers, and school cooks, more than 5 million meals, as well as vitamins and medications, were distributed among 120 schools. Nearly 2,000 members of school management committees supported by the program participated in literacy sessions and radio broadcasts about the importance of education. Through these efforts, overall school enrollment in targeted communities has increased from 26 percent to 32 percent for boys and from 39 percent to 55 percent for girls since the program began in 2007.

In May 2010, the Obama administration unveiled the Feed the Future (FTF) Initiative. The Initiative supports the international effort to increase the availability and accessibility of food and to improve nutrition and food safety. It serves as a springboard for broader economic development and food security. It also serves as a foundation for peace and opportunity in developing countries, which ensures our own national security. USDA is working with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of State, and international organizations to help implement the Initiative.

The McGovern-Dole program is one way USDA leverages its resources to support Feed the Future. The Program has played a critical role in enhancing the livelihood of Malians and will remain a bright spot in food assistance and education in communities around the world.

Three village women prepare U.S. rice for the student’s lunch at Boungel School.

Three village women prepare U.S. rice for the student’s lunch at Boungel School (CRS/Carmen Matty-Cervantes).

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