Reading about hunger is like reading about farm safety. Unless it hits you up close and personal, it's hard to fathom your reaction.

But think of this: There are 800 million hungry people around the world; 300 million are school-age children, of which 130 million are illiterate and not attending school.

Since boys are usually favored in most cultures, illiterate girls marry at the young age of 11-13 and have an average of six children.

Now the good news. Girls who go to school, just through the sixth grade, marry later and have an average of 2.9 children.

The best way to get them to attend school is to offer a free school lunch, says World Food Program (WFP) Ambassador George McGovern.

I recently had the privilege of interviewing McGovern, former senator from South Dakota. Now 80, he and former Sen. Bob Dole have jump-started a school lunch program for the world's poor children — like the U.S. school lunch program they launched as U.S. senators in the early 1970s.

To fund at least part of that Global School Feeding Program, the new Farm Bill includes $100 million to support the McGovern/Dole act and USDA's two-year-old pilot program for one more year. Although it may seem like a drop in the $3 billion bucket, it makes a big dent in America's contribution. What happens beyond 2003 depends on Congress and the Administration.

So a wonderful side benefit of the new Farm Bill is that you're assured part of the appropriated money will go to feed the poor, especially kids. And likely, your corn and soybeans will be a major part of their nutritious school lunches.

You can make a bigger dent in the project, too. As you may recall, Senior Editor John Russnogle traveled to Nicaragua last winter with WFP to get a first-hand look at how your corn is being put to good use. (See “Looking Into Poverty's Eyes,” February, page 26-30.)

A $10,000 project is now underway to help El Guacucal, one of the villages visited on the trip, build a new well to provide fresh water to its villagers. At this point, the village has no water. If you'd like to contribute to the fund, please make checks payable to Friends of WFP/El Guacucal and mail to: Friends of WFP, P.O. Box 11856, Washington, D.C. 20008.

Donations are tax deductible. For more information, call John Russnogle at 402-327-2670.