George McGovern, a member of the Greatest Generation, was deeply influenced by his experiences serving in World War II. He witnessed in Europe the terrible enemy that appears with every conflict — hunger. Observing people scavenging for food, living in chaos, inspired McGovern and many others of his generation to take action to fight man's ancient enemy.
As McGovern rose in the ranks of politics, he would get his opportunity to attack hunger in a significant way. When President Kennedy took office in 1961, he made McGovern the Food for Peace director. This was an initiative started during the Eisenhower administration to send surplus food overseas to countries in need. McGovern directed programs that fought hunger across the globe and saved millions of lives.
Not only did McGovern preside over the U.S. food for peace effort, he started an international version of this program.The idea was if every nation with surplus food worked together to help countries in need, it could be the greatest and most noble step toward peace. McGovern was instrumental in starting the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the largest food aid organization.
Former Senator and Food for Peace director George McGovern (courtesy Friends of the World Food Program)
Throughout his career in the Congress McGovern championed the domestic school lunch program. Just about 10 years ago, along with Senator Bob Dole, he started a Food for Education program to provide school meals to children in developing countries. Today, the McGovern-Dole program gives funding to Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, WFP and other charities so they can provide the school meals.
McGovern’s work makes quite a biography. But his story is not finished. In fact, at this very moment he is in the field once again as food ambassador for WFP, visiting programs in Kenya and Uganda. He just visited the Stara School in Kenya, which is run by ChildsLife International. This charity partners with WFP in providing school meals to children who live in the slums of Kenya. The school and its meals offer them hope for their future.
McGovern says, "I firmly believe that school meals are the most important form of assistance that the United States can give in Kenya and other parts of the world. This is because school meals provide both a safety net for hungry children and an incentive to keep them in school so they can learn for a better future."
McGovern is an ardent supporter of building a global school lunch program, as there are so many children who are suffering from hunger. The reach of school feeding needs to be expanded during this global hunger crisis. His message is one that should be listened to within the halls of the current government.
It was McGovern's generation, from World War II through the Food for Peace era, who realized the power of a school lunch. It is the most effective and least expensive tool for bringing peace and changing the lives of children, one meal at a time.
Click here to listen to President Kennedy announce the creation of the World Food Programme, which McGovern was so instrumental in founding.
Read McGovern's blog here