Instead of building a border wall, why not feed more children?
We should expand school lunch programs around the world. It will cost less than President Trump's proposed wall along the Mexican border and it will do far more good.
Fighting hunger is critical to building peace. It is food shortages that threaten lives and cause major instability around the world. Lack of food is a major reason people migrate from the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras) to make the dangerous trek through Mexico to America. Those are problems you can't solve with a wall.
School meals can help, though. If we made sure every child in the Northern Triangle received school meals with take home rations it would help those families immensely.
We could do this by expanding our McGovern-Dole school lunch program, which feeds children in developing countries. McGovern-Dole currently provides meals in Guatemala via Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Save the Children. We should increase the numbers of children who receive these meals.
Brenda Urizar of CRS says there is a "huge effect that school meals have on reducing immediate hunger. In addition, reducing daily hunger has a logical effect on student attentiveness, as students can better focus on lessons during the school day."
If we can build national school lunch programs in these countries with take home rations, families would have consistent sources of food. If local farmers can be empowered to supply the food it will give them income and ensure the sustainability of the school lunch programs.
School meals can do a lot for children and their communities, if we make enough of an initial investment. We should expand school lunches in the Northern Triangle to help those countries deal with the hunger crisis that has led so many to migrate. This is especially important for drought hit areas, where farmers cannot grow enough food.
A UN World Food Program report on why people flee the Northern Triangle recommended we "support school meals transfers and connect school feeding programmes with local small-scale producers, thus creating new local markets for food production.”
School meals are needed in many other countries too. War-torn Syria, Yemen, Mali, Afghanistan and South Sudan all need food for reconstruction and peace building.
The World Food Program estimates that “$3.2 billion is needed per year to reach all 66 million hungry school-age children.” That is significantly less than border wall costs and school lunches would not have to be paid by just one nation either. The U.S. can lead a coalition of nations in funding school lunches around the world.
Our new Congress should aspire to increasing school lunches to fight hunger here and globally. That is a sound policy and one both sides of the aisle can embrace. Increasing funds for the McGovern-Dole global school lunch program would be a start. Currently McGovern-Dole receives around $200 million a year, a relatively tiny part of the federal budget.
We are a humanitarian nation, not one to isolate ourselves behind walls. We must engage the world. Feeding hungry children will help in resolving the problems that confront many nations.
William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program and Catholic Relief Services on the book "Ending World Hunger."