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UN food agency welcomes Pope's support for its school feeding programme

UN food agency welcomes Pope's support for its school feeding programme

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed the strong backing it received from Pope John Paul II who urged the international community to provide financial support to the agency's global school feeding programme.

Reacting to the Pontiff's remarks in his weekly Sunday message, Catherine Bertini, Executive Director of the Rome-based UN agency, said the Pope's support meant "a message of hope" for millions of hungry children. "School feeding is not only affordable, it is the best investment the international community can make in the world's poorest children," said Ms. Bertini.

In his Sunday message, the Pope stressed that WFP's school feeding programme has proven to be a very effective way of fighting hunger and helping the world's poorest children. "I pray that the international community will generously support [this] work," he said.

The WFP chief emphasized that school feeding gives children a better chance in life. "Our experience at WFP demonstrates time and again that school feeding is critical to breaking the vicious cycle of hunger and misery that has condemned generations of children to poverty and despair."

WFP, which last year fed 12 million school children in 54 countries, has launched a global campaign to increase support from donors to reach more hungry students. The agency estimates that there are some 300 million poor children - mostly girls - in the world today who either do not receive a meal during the school day or do not attend school at all.

According to WFP, a child can be fed for an average of just 0.22 euros (19 cents) a day. If donors were to commit to a 15-year programme, an entire generation of children around the globe could receive basic nutrition and education, Ms. Bertini said.