Many families are struggling in Guatemala. Poverty has worsened because of the coffee rust. This is a fungus which infects and destroys coffee leaves. Small farmers are not able to grow as much of the staple crop. Their incomes are lower, and this is very difficult considering the already existing poverty levels.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) reports that some parents have resorted to keeping children home from school. They simply cannot afford to send them any longer.
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has a special plan to help these families. CRS is starting to provide food at school using a grant from the U.S. McGovern-Dole program. This will help fight hunger among low-income families. By having the food at school it encourages class attendance.
The safety net of the meals will help in a transition period as families try to develop alternative sources of income. CRS is helping people make that adjustment, but it does not happen overnight.
The CRS school meal plan is being enacted in Totonicapán of the western highlands of the country. Robyn Fieser of CRS says, "The food distribution began two weeks ago with an initial pilot of two distribution routes covering 13 schools. This week the partners will begin expanding to additional routes. By the end of July we hope to reach 100% distribution."
CRS, along with its partners, has set up a distribution system to transport the food to the schools. This includes warehouses and routes which take into account the conditions of roads leading to communities. Also, the ability of the communities themselves to help with transporting the food to the schools.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) this school feeding project will benefit around 120,000 students. The McGovern-Dole program is named after former senators George McGovern and Bob Dole. The goal of this initiative is to lead the way in providing school meals for all children around the world.