:: Thursday, June 13, 2002 ::

Tommy Sheridan, who is a Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Scottish Socialist Party is introducing a bill to provide free nutritious school meals for every child in Scotland. The New Labour executive are doing their best to sabotage it. The article below from the NY Times outlines why the bill is so important.

June 13, 2002 At Summit, a Push for a Proven Cure for Hunger: School Lunches By ELIZABETH OLSON

GENEVA, June 12 — While world leaders at the Rome food summit meeting were sparring over how to tackle global hunger, the World Food Program said today that one proven way was to provide school lunches, which now guarantee that more than 15 million children have a good meal every day. The school-lunch program seems prosaic when compared with the grander schemes of abandoning agricultural subsidies, dropping trade barriers and investing in rural development that are being debated by 80 world leaders at the United Nations meeting on world hunger. The four-day gathering, which has been criticized as more of an excuse for shopping than a serious effort at addressing world hunger, was called to revitalize government pledges made five years ago to halve the level of world hunger to 400 million people by 2015, a goal that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has said will not be met.

Wealthy Western countries, which have sent lower-level officials to the meeting, have been accused of showing indifference to hunger. The European Union, in unusual public criticism, rebuffed the agency's demand for $24 billion a year for new agricultural development aid. James Morris, the director of the World Food Program, said important strides in reducing hunger can be made by focusing on the relatively cheap and uncomplicated effort of feeding the 300 million children who go to bed unfed every night.

"We can feed a child in school for 19 cents a day," he said, speaking in Rome. "For a very small investment, we can change a child's life." The World Food Program is urging expansion of the school feeding program, which began 39 years ago and has since branched out to 60 countries including Afghanistan, Uganda and El Salvador.

"This is a proven, concrete program to reduce hunger for school-age children," said Arlene Mitchell, head of the agency's school feeding unit.

A nutritious meal at school has a number of benefits, including encouraging children to attend, especially girls in countries where their education is not a priority, said Ms. Mitchell at a briefing in Geneva. Most of the children who do not attend school or do not receive a meal during the school day are girls, according to the program. Take-home rations that allow children to bring home some food also persuade parents to send children to school, she said. In Pakistan, the take-home food program increased enrollment of girls by 247 percent over a four-year period studied, the program found. In Morocco, twice as many girls began first grade when a food-ration program was started, according to the program.

A full stomach helps children to concentrate, aiding their ability to learn, and also fights common deficiencies in diet, including vitamin A and iron, Ms. Mitchell said.

Millions more children have been added to the school feeding rolls in the last few years, as the program grew from 11.9 million children in 1999 to 15 million last year, Ms. Mitchell said. No figures were available for the number of children being fed in 2002, but the program has expanded from 52 countries to 60 countries since 1999.

Thirteen countries have taken over the school feeding operations themselves. They include Brazil, where a school snack program began in 1954. Now children in 189,000 schools there receive at least one meal a day during the school year.

:: Alister | 6:45 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | |


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