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.
Both McGovern and Dole witnessed the terrible child hunger of Europe during World War II. Feeding programs became a top foreign policy priority for the United States. The experience was felt very much by members of the greatest generation. McGovern and Dole emerged as leaders from this group in the fight against hunger.
McGovern became the Food for Peace director during the Kennedy administration. He emphasized school meals because it would give the children both nutrition and a chance for an education. The school was the perfect place to distribute the food. Brazil, India, South Korea and Poland were some of the countries that received the millions of school meals provided by Food for Peace.
McGovern teamed up with Dole to improve the U.S. national school meals programs, including summer feeding. They knew that the success of this nation, or any other, depends on healthy and educated children. Their partnership crossed party lines, showing an example too that Democrats and Republicans can work together and get results.
That teamwork led to the creation of the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program, which got its start in 2000. Every year funds are given to aid groups like the World Food Programme (WFP), Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children so they can provide school meals in developing countries.
For example, in war-torn Mali, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is using McGovern-Dole funds to provide school meals. Kristina Brayman, of CRS in Mali said last year,
"It means children receive a hot, nutritious meal each day, using US donated food complemented by both local foods from school gardens and purchased through funds collected by the community. Without that food, many students would not eat a square meal at all. It motivates parents to send their children to school, especially girls, and means the children are able to grow, develop, and maximize their learning potential. It really is essential."
The same for the World Food Program in Haiti and Kenya. Countries that have suffered through war, natural disasters or poverty need the support in their recovery. Feeding and educating children is so crucial for this to be achieved.
By writing to your member of Congress you can encourage funding for McGovern-Dole. The recent passage of the Omnibus Spending Bill was favorable to McGovern-Dole, allowing an increase of 40 million more meals to be provided this year. More advocacy on the upcoming farm bill can further increase the funding. Rick Leach, the president of the World Food Program USA, says it's urgent food aid programs get this boost from Congress:
"The McGovern-Dole Food for Education funding plays an equally vital role in responding to the long-term needs of hungry children. As the escalating crisis in Syria, coupled with emerging humanitarian conflicts in South Sudan and the Central African Republic, threaten to put a serious strain on WFP's resources further U.S. support will be needed."
The public can also donate to the McGovern-Dole School Meals fund that was created last year by the World Food Program USA. Erin Cochran, the WFP USA communications director, says, "The new fund honors the legacy of Senators McGovern and Dole and offers Americans, and the private sector, an opportunity to support their legacy. Contributions to the fund will provide food to children in schools around the world who suffer from chronic hunger."
The new fund will also have a special emphasis on supporting the local production of food for school meals, an area where U.S. government programs have not focused enough attention. Aid groups, for example, have been trying to push reforms through Congress that would allow more use of locally produced food for relief operations. The Congress will have another opportunity on this year's farm bill legislation. Local food production is key because it means less funds being spent on shipping food and more towards feeding children. It gives the developing countries a way to take ownership of the program rather than relying on outside help. It's a path to self-sufficiency.
Congress will also have opportunities to strengthen the summer feeding program in the United States so it can reach more children.
McGovern and Dole will continue to bring attention to the world's suffering children, those whose lives can be changed if they can only get school meals every day. It is very much the soundest investment we can make around the globe: food, education and hope for children.
Their presidential campaigns ended in defeat on cold November days long ago. The story though is still being written on their campaign to end world hunger with school meals. This campaign needs volunteers like you.