Wednesday, Aug 15, 2018
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Farm Bill can help end world hunger

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In this July 24, 2018, file photo farmer Tim Novotny, of Wahoo, shreds male corn plants in a field of seed corn, in Wahoo, Neb.

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It was George Marshall, the World War II Army Chief and Secretary of State, who said “hunger and insecurity are the worst enemies of peace.”

Ending world hunger is vital to our strategy for peace. The Farm Bill, currently pending in Congress, can help by increasing the amount of food procured in developing countries to provide school meals to children.

Imagine if a farmer in an impoverished country can produce enough food to feed school children in their community. That is a pathway toward ending hunger in that nation.

Look at our own farms in the United States and how they feed hungry children in our communities. One of the most inspiring stories this summer in Ohio is how Burwinkel Farms, celebrating its 100th anniversary, is donating substantial amounts of food to feed children. This small farm with a big heart has donated many thousands of ears of corn to Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) and St. Vincent DePaul on multiple occasions.

After CPS received the corn for their summer feeding sites, it was distributed in neighborhoods which lack grocery stores. Director Jessica Shelly exclaimed “Great job by everyone to help our students and families in food deserts have amazing fresh produce.” This is an effective way to fight child hunger.

Burwinkel would not be able to do any of this without the support of the community. These are the customers that purchase their produce and contribute to the food drives. When a farm does well, the whole community does better.

Let’s take this thinking beyond our shores to other lands. If a farm in a developing country is able to produce food and supply their community it can help end hunger.

Imagine if a school in an impoverished country starts a lunch program. With school feeding, they could feed hungry children and help them stay in school. If that food comes from area farms, the school lunch program is more sustainable. The local agriculture benefits and the students benefit.

We should do more to support locally sourced school feeding programs in developing countries. The Farm Bill provides us this opportunity.

The U.S. McGovern-Dole school lunch program, run by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), provides meals in impoverished countries. Charities like Catholic Relief Services, the UN World Food Program, Save the Children and Mercy Corps provide the meals with USDA funding granted by Congress.

This program has fed millions of hungry children in Haiti, Mali, Guatemala, Ethiopia and other countries ravaged by hunger. But most of the food comes from the United States and is shipped overseas to the country in need.

If we allowed more flexibility with the program, local purchase of the food could take place. On the Farm Bill we could have at least 15 percent of funds or even higher allocated to local purchase of food through McGovern-Dole. This investment could help these small farms get the resources and customer demand to become sustainable sources.

More children could be fed and local farms would benefit. That is a pathway toward ending hunger.

After World War II, when the United States supported a massive school lunch program in Japan, local purchase of food was included. The Japanese school lunch program was very important for the recovery of their country, feeding millions of their children left hungry by the war.

School meals are vital today to many nations affected by hunger, poverty, war and drought. Haiti, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Mali, Syria, and many other countries are in desperate need. Every nation needs a sustainable school lunch program for its children.

The McGovern-Dole program over the years has helped many of these countries with food from the U.S. But we can do ever better if we allow more local purchase of food to be included.

Think about what we could achieve, a world where every child could receive a school lunch. That is only possible, in the long run, if the food comes from farms in the developing countries themselves.

Let’s strive to achieve that dream of a global school lunch program empowered by farmers. It can begin with this coming Farm Bill by increasing funds for the local purchase of food through the McGovern-Dole program.

William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.” He is also a food aid advocate who writes with Catholic Relief Services.

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