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Haiti losing key funding for school meals

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The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said today that it’s losing funding for its school meals program in Haiti. WFP is the leading organization fighting hunger in Haiti and almost 70 other countries.

A key source of WFP funding in Haiti, the U.S. McGovern-Dole school meals program, will not be extended.

The McGovern-Dole program, named after former Senators George McGovern and Bob Dole, provides school meals to hungry children around the world. The initiative continues a great tradition of U.S.-sponsored school meals to countries suffering from conflict, natural disasters and poverty.

McGovern-Dole funding has allowed WFP to provide food in schools throughout Haiti, which has boosted attendance and enrollment.

Danielle Selicour, the headmistress of the Joseph et Bertha Wigfall School, says, “We have a proverb in Haiti, ‘Sak vid pa kanpe’, which means an empty sack cannot stand up. By this we mean that when your stomach is empty you are not able to do anything.”

The meals have made a big difference in Haiti, especially in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. However, WFP’s request for continued McGovern-Dole funding in Haiti was denied. This means no continuation of support from the program beyond this school year.

Every year the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) determines which countries will receive McGovern-Dole grants. Funding is limited, so USDA has to prioritize. The U.S. Congress could increase funding for McGovern-Dole and that would allow more programs like the one in Haiti to receive continued support.

Had the funding been provided, WFP would have been able to feed 230,000 Haitian school children from 2014-2016. This is a significant part of WFP’s school feeding which reaches 685,000 Haitian school kids. WFP is helping Haiti build a national school lunch program, which will help fight hunger and promote education.

WFP’s Grace Tillyard says, “Haiti’s National School Feeding Programme has a strategy that aims to set up a government-run nationally funded school feeding programme by 2030 and they increase their contribution on an annual basis.” However, she adds, “WFP’s support to the Haitian Government is essential to providing food to all the children in need countrywide.”

The prospects of finding other sources of funding are admittedly gloomy. Without finding replacement funding from other sources, WFP will have to scale back the school lunch program in Haiti. This will reverse progress toward the national school lunch program and efforts to defeat hunger.

On the possibility that school meals will be reduced countrywide, Tillyard says, “The school meals programme is an essential social safety net for the country and the impact of having to reduce the number of students we feed would be very hard for many families. It would undoubtedly have a great effect on school attendance, where the poorest families would be forced to pull their children out of school.”

The summer feeding program that WFP once ran in Haiti no longer operates due to funding issues. Now the safety net of meals may start to disappear during the regular school year as well.

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