Arlington, VA (February 8, 2012) More than 25,000 at-risk pre-school and elementary students in Senegal will benefit from a new daily lunch initiative supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and implemented by the nonprofit Counterpart International.

This three-year program starts in March and provides U.S. commodities (bulgur, lentils and vegetable oil), technical assistance and other resources to children in 156 schools in Senegal’s remote province of Matam, as well as providing rations for 1,600 pregnant and lactating women.

“U.S. food will jump-start strong minds and bodies for the children of Matam, and distributing in schools will keep them in school so they can build a future,” says Joan Parker, President & CEO of Counterpart International.

Josephine Trenchard, Counterpart’s Director in Senegal, adds: “When people talk about education, most of the time they talk about training teachers. But they ignore the fact that you cannot teach a child who is hungry.”

The program, known as the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education, also seeks to improve overall education standards by training school administrators and constructing classrooms. Other health, nutrition and education activities are included.

New videos, a slideshow and stories about the program may be found at:

Parker says the program moves families to long-term self-sufficiency by engaging them in the creation of community gardens and other enterprises that progressively replace donated food with local food.

This initiative builds on existing USDA-supported Food for Education programming in Senegal that is successfully implemented by Counterpart in 150 schools.

Senegalese education officials credit this initiative with increasing enrollment and decreasing dropout rates. Indeed, the government of Senegal has now created a similar program to assist other schools.

The benefits of this food security program can be seen on both sides of the Atlantic, says Parker.

“Not only does this program changes lives in Senegal, it also supports rural communities in the United States through USDA purchases from American farmers,” says Parker. “It is a win-win situation for everyone involved.”

Counterpart International helps people build better lives and more durable futures, community by community. For 50 years, Counterpart has been an innovator, changing the way people look at, and solve, global development challenges. Today, we are working with more than 3,500 local organizations, and more than 150,000 leaders — including women and youth — in 24 countries around the world. Learn more