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School feeding key weapon in war against hunger, poverty: WFP chief

School feeding key weapon in war against hunger, poverty: WFP chief

The head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today called on national governments and the humanitarian aid community to help create a global school feeding programme for the world's undernourished children, calling such a scheme a "key weapon" in the war against hunger and poverty.

"Feeding and educating children are key to closing the gap between rich and poor," said WFP Executive Director Catherine Bertini on the eve of this year's World Food Day 2001, the theme of which is "Fight Hunger to Reduce Poverty."

Ms. Bertini, whose organization is the largest provider of school meals in the developing world, said research and decades of experience have shown that school feeding can immediately alleviate hunger, dramatically increase attendance, improve performance, and ultimately help educate many more girls and boys. WFP has nearly 40 years experience in school feeding and provides meals to more than 12 million school children in 54 countries.

"Study after study shows that when food is provided at school, children attend more often and they achieve and thrive," she said.

There are currently more than 300 million chronically hungry children in the world today, according to WFP. Some 170 million of them go to school on empty stomachs and don't receive any food during the day, while 130 million don't attend school at all. The majority of them are girls.

"Some people exploit ignorance and poor children are the most susceptible," Ms. Bertini said. "World leaders should strongly examine the benefits of school feeding as a simple but effective tool to help exterminate poverty."

WFP has already taken concrete steps to expand and improve its current school feeding activities and has formed partnerships with other UN agencies, such as the World Bank and the World Health Organisation, as well as a large number of charities.

"It is now more important than ever that we look at long term solutions to ending poverty," said Ms. Bertini. "Giving a nutritious meal to a poor student today is key to helping him or her become a literate, socially-responsible adult tomorrow."