Foreign Assistance:

Global Food for Education Initiative Faces Challenges for Successful Implementation

GAO-02-328: Published: Feb 28, 2002. Publicly Released: Feb 28, 2002.

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At the Group of Eight industrialized countries' summit in July 2000, President Clinton proposed a Global Food for Education Initiative (GFEI) whereby developed countries would provide school breakfasts or lunches to needy children in poor countries. The aim of the initiative is to use school meals to attract children to school, keep them attending once they enroll, and improve learning. The president also announced a one-year, $300 million pilot program to be run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to jump-start the proposed global effort. Research and expert views on the effectiveness of school feeding programs indicate that the programs are more likely to be successful when they are carefully targeted and integrated with other educational, health, and nutritional interventions. In establishing the pilot program, USDA did not build on some important lessons from previous school feeding programs. Although USDA expects more than eight million children to benefit from the pilot program, the structure, planning, and management fall short in ensuing that the program's objectives will be attained. Representatives of most other donor countries GAO interviewed said their governments were either noncommittal about, or unwilling to provide, substantial support for a comprehensive, long-term food for education program. This lack of support is a problem because the United States envisioned a multilateral program with other donors funding about three-quarters of the program's total cost. GFEI seems unlikely to attract much support from other donors unless the United States adopts a permanent program that does not depend on surplus agricultural commodities or the pilot program produces strong, positive results.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matters for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: As Congress decides whether to further fund the GFEI, it may wish to consider assuring that the administering agency has sufficient expertise and staff resources to effectively manage the program.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In February 2002, we issued a report, "Foreign Assistance: Global Food For Education Initiative (GFEI) Faces Challenges For Successful Implementation," containing the following matters for congressional consideration: 1) extending the pilot program to permit the assessment of its effects on learning, as well as a meaningful review of its impact on enrollment and attendance; 2)deciding whether additional funding for the pilot project related activities, such as teacher training and textbooks, may be needed for effective projects; 3)assuring that the administering agency has sufficient expertise and staff resources to effectively manage the program; and 4) requiring the administering agency to establish measurable performance indicators to monitor progress and evaluate project results. On May 13, 2002, The President signed into law the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, which established the McGovern-Dole International Food For Education and Child Nutrition Program responding to GAO's matters for consideration, strengthening and converting GFEI into a permanent authorized program. The legislation authorized the establishment of the new program for each of the fiscal years 2004 through 2007. On June 20, 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) issued revised and updated regulations (7 CFR Part 1599; RIN 0551-AA64) governing the operation of the new programs responsiveness to GAO's matters for congressional consideration. Congress's legislative initiative on the school feeding program and the related USDA's FAS strengthened program regulations have essentially resulted in implementation of GAO's four matters for congressional consideration. More specifically, FAS now requires all program participants to provide information on the impacts of the program on enrollment, learning and attendance, as well as other areas such as beneficiaries, complimentary activities provided, graduation steps being incorporated and other donor resources. FAS has also periodically monitored and provided analysis of these key program areas in its annual reports to Congress. FAS, at the direction of Congress, has also authorized the provision of cash resources to support activities that improve the effectiveness of the program related activities such as teacher and parent training, provision of textbooks, capacity building and other complementary activities targeted at sustainability and graduation. The new program's legislation and regulations have required USDA's FAS to develop staff expertise in education, nutrition and monitoring of school feeding programs. USDA's Food and Nutrition Service and National Agricultural Statistical Service have trained FAS program staff on key educational related issues. FAS program staff have also attended conferences on school feeding. FAS now has 5 years of experience managing the international school feeding program and has developed and incorporated best practices as well as evaluation measurements in all aspects of program performance. FAS has also established a measurable performance indicator to monitor the number of beneficiaries fed under the program. FAS is reviewing the performance indicator to determine the adequacy of the indicator. Once this review is complete, FAS may include additional other indicators for measuring the program's overall performance. On an individual project basis, FAS requires all implementing organizations to collect baseline data and to measure program results in six basic areas: 1) access, entry, and continuation; 2) educational progress; 3) nutritional and maternal child health progress; 4) other donor support; 5) community development; and 6) graduation and sustainability. In summary, the Congress and the administering agency, USDA's FAS, have been responsive to all of GAO's matters for consideration.

    Matter: As Congress decides whether to further fund the GFEI, it may wish to consider deciding whether additional funding for pilot project related activities, such as teacher training and textbooks, may be needed for effective projects.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In February 2002, we issued a report, "Foreign Assistance: Global Food For Education Initiative (GFEI) Faces Challenges For Successful Implementation," containing the following matters for congressional consideration: 1) extending the pilot program to permit the assessment of its effects on learning, as well as a meaningful review of its impact on enrollment and attendance; 2)deciding whether additional funding for the pilot project related activities, such as teacher training and textbooks, may be needed for effective projects; 3)assuring that the administering agency has sufficient expertise and staff resources to effectively manage the program; and 4) requiring the administering agency to establish measurable performance indicators to monitor progress and evaluate project results. On May 13, 2002, The President signed into law the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, which established the McGovern-Dole International Food For Education and Child Nutrition Program responding to GAO's matters for consideration, strengthening and converting GFEI into a permanent authorized program. The legislation authorized the establishment of the new program for each of the fiscal years 2004 through 2007. On June 20, 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) issued revised and updated regulations (7 CFR Part 1599; RIN 0551-AA64) governing the operation of the new programs responsiveness to GAO's matters for congressional consideration. Congress's legislative initiative on the school feeding program and the related USDA's FAS strengthened program regulations have essentially resulted in implementation of GAO's four matters for congressional consideration. More specifically, FAS now requires all program participants to provide information on the impacts of the program on enrollment, learning and attendance, as well as other areas such as beneficiaries, complimentary activities provided, graduation steps being incorporated and other donor resources. FAS has also periodically monitored and provided analysis of these key program areas in its annual reports to Congress. FAS, at the direction of Congress, has also authorized the provision of cash resources to support activities that improve the effectiveness of the program related activities such as teacher and parent training, provision of textbooks, capacity building and other complementary activities targeted at sustainability and graduation. The new program's legislation and regulations have required USDA's FAS to develop staff expertise in education, nutrition and monitoring of school feeding programs. USDA's Food and Nutrition Service and National Agricultural Statistical Service have trained FAS program staff on key educational related issues. FAS program staff have also attended conferences on school feeding. FAS now has 5 years of experience managing the international school feeding program and has developed and incorporated best practices as well as evaluation measurements in all aspects of program performance. FAS has also established a measurable performance indicator to monitor the number of beneficiaries fed under the program. FAS is reviewing the performance indicator to determine the adequacy of the indicator. Once this review is complete, FAS may include additional other indicators for measuring the program's overall performance. On an individual project basis, FAS requires all implementing organizations to collect baseline data and to measure program results in six basic areas: 1) access, entry, and continuation; 2) educational progress; 3) nutritional and maternal child health progress; 4) other donor support; 5) community development; and 6) graduation and sustainability. In summary, the Congress and the administering agency, USDA's FAS, have been responsive to all of GAO's matters for consideration.

    Matter: As Congress decides whether to further fund the Global Food for Education Initiative (GFEI), it may wish to consider extending the pilot program to permit an assessment of its effects on learning, as well as a more meaningful review of its impacts on enrollment and attendance.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In February 2002, we issued a report, "Foreign Assistance: Global Food For Education Initiative (GFEI) Faces Challenges For Successful Implementation," containing the following matters for congressional consideration: 1) extending the pilot program to permit the assessment of its effects on learning, as well as a meaningful review of its impact on enrollment and attendance; 2)deciding whether additional funding for the pilot project related activities, such as teacher training and textbooks, may be needed for effective projects; 3)assuring that the administering agency has sufficient expertise and staff resources to effectively manage the program; and 4) requiring the administering agency to establish measurable performance indicators to monitor progress and evaluate project results. On May 13, 2002, The President signed into law the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, which established the McGovern-Dole International Food For Education and Child Nutrition Program responding to GAO's matters for consideration, strengthening and converting GFEI into a permanent authorized program. The legislation authorized the establishment of the new program for each of the fiscal years 2004 through 2007. On June 20, 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) issued revised and updated regulations (7 CFR Part 1599; RIN 0551-AA64) governing the operation of the new programs responsiveness to GAO's matters for congressional consideration. Congress's legislative initiative on the school feeding program and the related USDA's FAS strengthened program regulations have essentially resulted in implementation of GAO's four matters for congressional consideration. More specifically, FAS now requires all program participants to provide information on the impacts of the program on enrollment, learning and attendance, as well as other areas such as beneficiaries, complimentary activities provided, graduation steps being incorporated and other donor resources. FAS has also periodically monitored and provided analysis of these key program areas in its annual reports to Congress. FAS, at the direction of Congress, has also authorized the provision of cash resources to support activities that improve the effectiveness of the program related activities such as teacher and parent training, provision of textbooks, capacity building and other complementary activities targeted at sustainability and graduation. The new program's legislation and regulations have required USDA's FAS to develop staff expertise in education, nutrition and monitoring of school feeding programs. USDA's Food and Nutrition Service and National Agricultural Statistical Service have trained FAS program staff on key educational related issues. FAS program staff have also attended conferences on school feeding. FAS now has 5 years of experience managing the international school feeding program and has developed and incorporated best practices as well as evaluation measurements in all aspects of program performance. FAS has also established a measurable performance indicator to monitor the number of beneficiaries fed under the program. FAS is reviewing the performance indicator to determine the adequacy of the indicator. Once this review is complete, FAS may include additional other indicators for measuring the program's overall performance. On an individual project basis, FAS requires all implementing organizations to collect baseline data and to measure program results in six basic areas: 1) access, entry, and continuation; 2) educational progress; 3) nutritional and maternal child health progress; 4) other donor support; 5) community development; and 6) graduation and sustainability. In summary, the Congress and the administering agency, USDA's FAS, have been responsive to all of GAO's matters for consideration.

    Matter: As Congress decides whether to further fund the GFEI, it may wish to consider requiring the administering agency to establish measurable performance indicators to monitor progress and evaluate project results.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In February 2002, we issued a report, "Foreign Assistance: Global Food For Education Initiative (GFEI) Faces Challenges For Successful Implementation," containing the following matters for congressional consideration: 1) extending the pilot program to permit the assessment of its effects on learning, as well as a meaningful review of its impact on enrollment and attendance; 2)deciding whether additional funding for the pilot project related activities, such as teacher training and textbooks, may be needed for effective projects; 3)assuring that the administering agency has sufficient expertise and staff resources to effectively manage the program; and 4) requiring the administering agency to establish measurable performance indicators to monitor progress and evaluate project results. On May 13, 2002, The President signed into law the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, which established the McGovern-Dole International Food For Education and Child Nutrition Program responding to GAO's matters for consideration, strengthening and converting GFEI into a permanent authorized program. The legislation authorized the establishment of the new program for each of the fiscal years 2004 through 2007. On June 20, 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) issued revised and updated regulations (7 CFR Part 1599; RIN 0551-AA64) governing the operation of the new programs responsiveness to GAO's matters for congressional consideration. Congress's legislative initiative on the school feeding program and the related USDA's FAS strengthened program regulations have essentially resulted in implementation of GAO's four matters for congressional consideration. More specifically, FAS now requires all program participants to provide information on the impacts of the program on enrollment, learning and attendance, as well as other areas such as beneficiaries, complimentary activities provided, graduation steps being incorporated and other donor resources. FAS has also periodically monitored and provided analysis of these key program areas in its annual reports to Congress. FAS, at the direction of Congress, has also authorized the provision of cash resources to support activities that improve the effectiveness of the program related activities such as teacher and parent training, provision of textbooks, capacity building and other complementary activities targeted at sustainability and graduation. The new program's legislation and regulations have required USDA's FAS to develop staff expertise in education, nutrition and monitoring of school feeding programs. USDA's Food and Nutrition Service and National Agricultural Statistical Service have trained FAS program staff on key educational related issues. FAS program staff have also attended conferences on school feeding. FAS now has 5 years of experience managing the international school feeding program and has developed and incorporated best practices as well as evaluation measurements in all aspects of program performance. FAS has also established a measurable performance indicator to monitor the number of beneficiaries fed under the program. FAS is reviewing the performance indicator to determine the adequacy of the indicator. Once this review is complete, FAS may include additional other indicators for measuring the program's overall performance. On an individual project basis, FAS requires all implementing organizations to collect baseline data and to measure program results in six basic areas: 1) access, entry, and continuation; 2) educational progress; 3) nutritional and maternal child health progress; 4) other donor support; 5) community development; and 6) graduation and sustainability. In summary, the Congress and the administering agency, USDA's FAS, have been responsive to all of GAO's matters for consideration.

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