This Thanksgiving, let's share our bounty with world's children
November 14, 2001
This Thanksgiving, let's share America's bounty and invite the world's children to join us for lunch.
I teach at a public university in Louisiana, one of the country's poorest states. A young man had taken one of my courses, done well and graduated. After the commencement ceremony, I met his father, who was proud of his son for being the first in their family of former sharecroppers to go to high school. I asked my student what made him stick to the education track when so many other poor kids of his generation dropped out.
His simple answer came with a smile: "Lunch."
Free lunches, he said, helped keep him in school.
We can now provide the same kind of nourishment and opportunity for the rest of the world. Bob Dole and George McGovern, two former senators from opposite ends of the political spectrum, have proposed "a universal school lunch every day for every child in the world."
The benefits of such a program are vast. First, it would provide nourishment to hundreds of millions who have insufficient food. Second, it would give a strong incentive to young people like my student to stay in school. And third, it would help girls and young women advance, which, in turn, would further reduce world hunger.
The United Nations has found that the education of girls is the single most effective way to alleviate some of the problems in the Third World. A study last year conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute, which is based in Washington D.C., concluded that educating poor women was crucial in reducing the prevalence of malnutrition by more than half in developing countries between 1970 and 1995.
We should support the global lunch proposal because it's the humanitarian thing to do. And it's good politics and public relations. The U.S. war on terrorism, however justifiable in our eyes, could appear like a battle between the haves and have-nots.
We can show the world, through this lunch program, that we care for the poor and their children, no matter their race, ethnicity, nationality or religion.
"If there was ever a reason for compassionate conservatism, this is a way for it to be expressed," said Dole when he announced the proposal for the program.
McGovern added, "In the long run it will cost us a lot more if we let 300 million children remain hungry and poorly educated."
I hope that some day I will meet a graduating student from Colombia, Sierra Leone or Thailand who tells me that the main reason she stayed in school was for lunch.
David D. Perlmutter is a senior fellow at Louisiana State University's Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs and an associate professor of mass communication. He can be reached at email@example.com.