Tag Archives: George McGovern

You Can Help McGovern-Dole School Meals Campaign

The presidential campaigns of former senators George McGovern (1972) and Bob Dole (1996) have long taken residence in the history books. However, one campaign they started continues even after McGovern’s passing. It’s fighting world hunger by providing school meals to hungry children.

You can help this campaign by asking Congress to support the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program. This initiative, run by the U.S. Dept of Agriculture, provides school meals to hungry children around the world.

Read the full article at The Huffington Post.

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Dole Reminds Us How Dems-Reps Can Work Together Against Hunger

biden_dole_3_0Former Senator Bob Dole received the George McGovern Leadership Award this week for his efforts to fight world hunger. Vice President Biden presented him the award at a ceremony hosted by the World Food Program U.S.A. in Washington, D.C.

Dole reminds us how Democrats and Republicans can actually work together, something they hardly ever do now. Dole formed a great partnership with former Senator George McGovern and the result was policies and programs that fed millions of children.

Biden said of Dole: “I think he exposed, for the first time, the long-term consequences of children not having the right nutrition.”

Dole served with the U.S. military in World War II in Italy. Incidentally, this was one of the countries that benefited from millions of school meals from the United States, both during and after the war.

U.S. Army and relief officials discussed plans on how distributing food at Italian schools would fight hunger and boost class attendance at the same time.

The Greatest Generation understood how important food and nutrition was not just for the U.S. but for overseas. They understood its importance for peace. McGovern and Dole were two of the leaders that emerged from this generation. A global school lunch program is named after them. The duo won the World Food Prize in 2008 for their teamwork against hunger.

The McGovern-Dole Food for Education program is currently feeding children in conflict-torn Mali, Haiti, Ethiopia, Kenya and other countries. The program funds the UN World Food Programme (WFP), Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children and other aid agencies who distribute the meals. McGovern-Dole is also part of the Farm Bill, a legislation where Democrats and Republicans are not seeing eye to eye.

No agreement is likely this year on the Farm Bill, which decides funding for nutrition programs both here and overseas. It’s a critical piece of legislation in the fight against hunger. The U.S. Food for Peace program is part of the Farm Bill. Food for Peace is the largest supporter of WFP, which feeds the hungry in over seventy countries.

This impasse in D.C. is the last thing we need with hunger escalating at home. Overseas, wars and disasters in Syria, the Philippines, the Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan and many other countries is creating hunger emergencies. Aid groups are unable to keep up.

If the U.S. Congress does not pass legislation supporting international food aid, then hunger and chaos will worsen overseas.

As Congress works on the Farm Bill they need to capture the approach of Dole and his generation. They need to take action against hunger and do so in a bipartisan approach. Congress should support domestic and international food aid on the Farm Bill.

Dole said when receiving his award: ” It should be our aspiration to aim higher and to strive harder to make the world a better place for millions of hungry children around the world.”

originally published at the Huffington Post

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George McGovern Championed Food for Peace

George McGovern, author of War Against Want and the Third Freedom, was named the United Nations World Food Programme’s first global ambassador against hunger. Credits: WFP

George McGovern passed away Sunday at 90 years old. He ran for President against Richard Nixon in 1972 and was a senator from South Dakota. But I remember him first for a book he wrote in 1964 called War Against Want: America’s Food for Peace Program.

McGovern was the director of Food for Peace under President Kennedy. This was the top U.S. program in fighting world hunger, started during the Eisenhower administration. McGovern’s book explored the history of Food for Peace and America’s leadership in fighting world hunger.

I ordered a copy from Amazon.com one day in 2006 after taking a leadership course at the College of Mount St. Joseph. Up until that point I really had no idea what Food for Peace was or very much knowledge about global hunger in general. What better introduction than War Against Want. Ever since getting that book, I have been writing about hunger issues.

In 2008, the Friends of the World Food Program held a teleconference with McGovern. I got the chance to talk with him and he told his story of how influenced he was by his experiences as a bomber pilot in World War II. He saw hunger in the war-torn countries and that planted the seed for him becoming an advocate for the needy.

McGovern was a leader who emerged from a World War II generation that understood how powerful a force hunger is in international relations. This wisdom helped the Greatest Generation navigate the treacherous waters of the post-war world.

When McGovern became the Food for Peace director in 1961 he hit the ground running and led a big expansion, especially with school feeding. Children in South Korea, Brazil, India, Poland and other countries received school meals during McGovern’s tenure. These countries are now donors to food aid.

The U.S. Food for Peace program led to the creation of an international version which is today known as the UN World Food Programme (WFP). McGovern was the one who got the ball rolling on this initiative, now the largest food aid organization in the world. The U.S. Food for Peace program is the single biggest donor to WFP. So the two programs work hand-in-hand in the global effort to end hunger.

McGovern remained active in fighting hunger even long after his days in government. He served as a goodwill ambassador for WFP. Josette Sheeran, the WFP director from 2007-2012, said: “I have treasured knowing him and feeling his incredible support.”

In 2000, an international school meals program was started by McGovern along with Senator Bob Dole. The McGovern-Dole program has fed millions of children in Haiti, Afghanistan, Yemen, Bangladesh and other locations. Each year McGovern-Dole grants are awarded to WFP and other hunger fighting organizations so they can provide school meals in developing countries. If you want to pay tribute to McGovern a great way would be to advocate for this program to be expanded. What better way to reach out to the world than through school meals?

As WFP’s current director Ertharin Cousin says, “George McGovern saw – way before anyone else – how the simple, sustained act of putting a meal in the hands of a poor child at school could change that child’s life and give them a chance at a better future.”

McGovern also was a leader in building the U.S. national school lunch program including summer feeding. At a Friends of WFP teleconference someone asked whether hunger should be fought first at home before going abroad. McGovern replied: Why not do both? There are after all enough resources in the world to reach all hungry people. Why give any quarter in the fight against hunger? He certainly did not.

While McGovern has moved on, his legacy remains, and also his spirit. You can see this when new advocates for ending world hunger emerge, ready to build on the foundation he left. McGovern’s story, in that sense, is far from over.

Article first published as George McGovern Championed Food for Peace on Blogcritics.

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Singing Telegrams, Congress and Food Aid

Congress is debating whether to reduce international food aid even as famine continues in East Africa (photo credit: World Food Program USA)

Western Union was in the news this week with its revival of the singing telegram – although updated to include e-mail delivery.

This company of course has a deep history of sending telegrams, whether the most urgent kind or the singing variety. One day in 1962 a Western Union telegram was sent to Congress urging them to save a program that provided school meals to children in Poland and Yugoslavia.

In June 1962, during the Kennedy administration, Congress was considering termination of aid to Poland and Yugoslavia, both under Communist control. Hugh D. Farley, the director of Church World Service, was upset with this prospect and sent a telegram to three Senators.

Farley urged the senators not to cut food aid programs in these two countries that were reaching over two million children with school meals. Orphanages and homes for aged were also receiving food support. Farley told the senators the cutting of aid would be “difficult for children to understand” and that “people to people” programs should be continued.

He also alerted George McGovern about the telegram. McGovern had been appointed by President Kennedy as the director of the Food for Peace program that oversaw these food aid initiatives. Food for Peace was started by President Dwight Eisenhower and President Kennedy continued and strengthened this program, placing special emphasis on school feeding.

McGovern wrote back to Farley the next day telling him of an amendment approved by the Senate “providing presidential authority for continued food assistance to Poland and Yugoslavia.” McGovern wrote, “I am sure that your expression to the Senators was helpful.”

Saving meals for children was the right thing to do in 1962 and it is right again in 2011. Church World Services is urging the same type of advocacy by citizens to tell Congress not to cut food aid programs in the upcoming budget. The Food for Peace program, as well as the McGovern-Dole school lunch program, are at risk of budget cuts.

With famine in East Africa and many other hunger crisis points unfolding, food aid needs to be bolstered, not reduced.

Church World Service says, “Further cuts to humanitarian foreign assistance will result in countless additional people going hungry and many more children losing their lives to preventable and treatable diseases. Preserving robust, well-targeted foreign assistance will save millions of lives, build self-reliance among the world’s most vulnerable, and help protect our own national security in the process.”

There is also quite a controversy over why Congress is making cuts to food aid since it already is such a relatively inexpensive program. Food aid makes up less than one tenth of one percent of the federal budget. International assistance programs, such as food aid and other programs like malaria treatments, come out to around 1 percent of the total budget. The relatively low cost of these aid programs is not widely known either.

Church World Service reports, “Polls show that many Americans believe that international assistance is 25 percent or more of U.S. spending. That makes it an easy target for members of Congress. But in fact, when these same Americans are asked how much U.S. aid for poor families abroad should be, they support levels between 6-10 percent!”

Save the Children, World Vision, the World Food Program USA and other agencies are urging Congress to save food aid from budget cuts. They are asking citizens to make their voices heard before it’s too late. Calls, e-mails, tweets, faxes are all being urged for reaching your representatives. A singing telegram? Well, if it works. Why not?

Article first published as Singing Telegrams, Congress and Food Aid on Blogcritics.

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McGovern’s The Third Freedom Essential Reading as Congress Debates Food Aid

George McGovern, author of the Third Freedom, was named the United Nations World Food Programme's first global ambassador against hunger. (WFP photo)

Former Democratic senator George McGovern’s The Third Freedom: Ending Hunger in Our Time highlights ways Congress can work to fight malnutrition at home and abroad, and why it’s so important we win this struggle against hunger.

His book takes on special meaning right now as Congress is proposing reductions in funding to food aid programs both here and abroad.

McGovern, who ran for President in 1972, was the Food for Peace director under President  Kennedy. This program sends U.S. food overseas to fight hunger and build stability.

McGovern also has a long track record helping feed the hungry in the United States. In a Friends of the World Food Program teleconference, the question was once posed to him: why fight hunger abroad when there are hungry people here? His reply was: Why not do both? Fight hunger whether it’s in the US or overseas.

In The Third Freedom he talks about the Food for Peace program which was supported by both President Dwight Eisenhower (a Republican) and then Democratic President John F. Kennedy. Since then, it has been the main weapon of the U.S. against world hunger.

Food for Peace though is currently at risk of significant budget cuts by Congress, despite the fact that there are tremendous hunger crisis points such as famine in East Africa, drought ravaging Afghanistan, and nations like Haiti who need food to bolster reconstruction.

The charity Save the Children says the House of Representatives is proposing $1.04 billion for Food Peace in the upcoming FY 2012 budget, a significant dropoff from this year’s funding level of nearly $1.5 billion.

One of the key bipartisan initiatives discussed by McGovern in the book is the McGovern-Dole global school meals program. Along with Republican Senator Robert Dole, McGovern developed this initiative.

McGovern-Dole funds school meal projects in developing countries. The UN World Food Programme, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision and other charities provide meals using McGovern-Dole funds. This program is among those at risk in current budget discussions in the Congress.

McGovern also writes about bipartisan congressional committees, which helped improve the U.S. domestic school lunch program. Today’s representatives need to keep up the fight to ensure needy children in the U.S. can access food. For instance, school lunch and summer feeding program enhancements made by McGovern and his colleagues in the Congress need to be followed through by the current representatives.

The bipartisan cooperation that McGovern writes about is especially critical as hunger rates in the U.S. are rising. Vicki Escarra, President of Feeding America says: “The need for food assistance has increased dramatically during the prolonged and severe recession. Hunger hits every state and county in America, with one in six people facing food insecurity… strong federal nutrition assistance programs will continue to be essential.”

Funding for domestic and overseas food aid is very much on the line currently in Congress. McGovern’s book offers hope in this difficult period by reviewing past achievements in the struggle to end hunger. At the same time, he is looking forward to what should be done next to defeat man’s ancient enemy

Originally published as McGovern’s The Third Freedom: Ending Hunger in Our Time is Essential Reading as Congress Debates Food Aid at Blogcritics Magazine

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