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Continuing the Work of Hunger Hero George McGovern
Last week, as advocates from every continent gathered in Des Moines, IA, for the 2012 World Food Prize presentation and related hunger events, the world was losing a hunger pioneer and hero: World Food Prize laureate George McGovern, 90, entered hospice care. He died Sunday, October 21, 2012.
The former U.S. senator and ambassador devoted much of his career to fighting for programs that support hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.
McGovern and former U.S. Senator Robert Dole (R-KS) were awarded the 2008 World Food Prize for their "inspired, collaborative leadership that has encouraged a global commitment to school feeding and enhanced school attendance and nutrition for millions of the world’s poorest children, especially girls." Since the 1990s, the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program has provided low-income countries with commodities as well as financial and technical assistance for school meal programs. The program also supports maternal, infant, and child nutrition programs. In 2010, the program served about 5 million people in 28 countries with a budget of $200 million--that's just $40 per person.
Under President John F. Kennedy, McGovern was the first director of the Food for Peace initiative, which is still the primary U.S. food aid program, feeding millions of refugees and others facing hunger emergencies every year. McGovern played an instrumental role in setting up the World Food Program (WFP), now the world’s largest humanitarian aid agency, and later became WFP's first Goodwill Ambassador.
McGovern was also concerned about hunger here at home. Just one example: he was an architect of the modern Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), then known as the Food Stamp Program. Today, SNAP helps put food on the table of more than 46 million low-income Americans as the nation's primary nutrition safety net for families.
McGovern continued his work on hunger well into his 80s. His advocacy improved the lives of millions of people, and his death is a major loss for people facing hunger and others working to find lasting solutions to the problem.
George McGovern's example of steadfast and determined advocacy is proof of a central tenet of Bread for the World's work: one person can make an enormous difference -- whether as a member of Congress and ambassador, or as "just" a person who speaks up for hungry people and shares information about policies that will end hunger. We can each help achieve the very tangible goal of all McGovern's work: access to sufficient nutritious food for all 7 billion of us.
Michele Learner is associate editor for Bread for the World Institute.
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