2008: Dole and McGovern
Hungry children have difficulty learning, and malnutrition often leads to permanently stunted physical and cognitive development. Traditionally, young girls in many developing countries are often kept out of school to work in the home performing child care, elder care, and other domestic chores, or are sent out to earn a living. This has caused great gender inequalities in literacy and access to education. As many as 300 million children are chronically malnourished due to the cycle of hunger and poverty.
Throughout their distinguished careers, Senator George McGovern and Senator Robert Dole have dedicated themselves to the elimination of hunger at home and abroad. In the 1970s, as leaders of opposing parties, they worked together to reform the Food Stamp Program (now known as SNAP), expand the domestic school lunch program, and establish the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
During the following decades, they built a broad, non-partisan consensus for anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs. By the early twenty-first century, the national school lunch program they fostered was providing meals to approximately 30 million children across the United States.
In the late 1990s, building upon their successes in reinvigorating U.S. food- and poverty-assistance programs, Senators McGovern and Dole began working toward reviving and strengthening global school feeding, nutrition, and education programs. They were committed to creating a program that would provide poor children with meals at school in countries throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.
Former President Bill Clinton supported the senators’ initiative and, in July 2000, his administration established a two-year pilot program, the Global Food for Education Initiative (GFEI), funded at $300 million. The U.S. Department of Agriculture administered the program, which initially provided nutritious meals for children in 38 countries.
Under the GFEI, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided surplus agricultural commodities to school-feeding programs operated by international organizations including the United Nations World Food Programme, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Mercy Corps, World Vision, Joint Aid Management, and the American Red Cross, as well as to the governments of countries that had made commitments to providing universal education.
School enrollment increased as a result of the GFEI, particularly for girls. More broadly, the benefits of school-feeding programs have been shown to include: improved cognition and better all-around academic performance; increases in local employment and parental involvement in school activities; and participation by local governments in supporting school-feeding efforts.
With the strong support and urging of Senator McGovern and Senator Dole, Congress passed legislation establishing a permanent international school feeding program. In May of 2002, President George W. Bush officially signed into law the George McGovern-Robert Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program (known as the McGovern-Dole Program). This hallmark effort has fed children in schools across the globe every year since then.
Since its inception as a pilot program, the McGovern-Dole Program has provided meals to 22 million children in 41 countries, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Eritrea, Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Malawi, Moldova, Nicaragua, Niger, and Pakistan. The program has boosted school attendance by an estimated 14 percent overall, and by 17 percent for girls.
The success of the McGovern-Dole Program helped development leaders to renew their interest in and support for school feeding. In 2002, the G8 and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) listed school feeding as a specific intervention in their action plans for poverty alleviation. In 2005, school-feeding was highlighted in the UN Millennium Project’s 10 key recommendations for achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The EU, Canada, and Japan are now among the major providers of resources to global school-feeding programs. With increased funding, the UN World Food Programme’s global school-feeding initiative – the world’s largest such program – was able to double its operations between 2000 and 2005. By 2006, its efforts reached more than 20 million children in 74 countries. Eleven million of these were in Africa, and just over 50 percent of them were girls.
The McGovern-Dole Program emphasizes benefiting girls and young women and overcoming gender inequalities in literacy and access to education. When meals are available at school, and/or take-home rations are available to the families of students attending school, girls and young women are much more likely to be allowed—even encouraged—to enroll, with numerous benefits. For example, studies in Mexico have shown that school-feeding programs there have led to female students’ finishing school at higher rates, and also marrying later in life and having fewer children.
Thousands of tons of wheat, soybeans, corn, wheat flour, cornmeal, corn-soy blend, rice, lentils, dry beans and vegetable oil have been shipped to participant countries through the auspices of the McGovern-Dole Program. These resources are used by local officials to provide school meals and snacks to children. The McGovern-Dole Program is moving toward increasing the amount of cash awarded while also implementing a new bartering system, in order to diversify the commodities and foodstuffs that the program provides.
Organizations and governments often combine school-feeding resources and programs with interventions that include: construction or upkeep of school kitchens and sanitation facilities; teacher and staff training; HIV/AIDS education; de-worming and inoculations; and local purchase of foods to strengthen markets. These efforts in turn have a multiplier effect of enhancing education, community development, health, and gender equity.
The McGovern-Dole Program has had a wide impact by reigniting global interest in supporting school feeding, which had become a relatively low international priority by the 1990s. Leaders of various international organizations cited the McGovern-Dole Program as the key factor that allowed organizations to increase their school-feeding operations and also assess the impact of those programs. The proven success encouraged increased commitments from various donor countries for school feeding.
The path-breaking accomplishments of the 2008 World Food Prize Laureates – Senator George McGovern and Senator Robert Dole – continue to inspire leaders both in the United States and across the globe to move their efforts forward to ever greater heights, with the goal to end world hunger.
For the millions of children it has touched in the past, and the millions who will benefit in the future, the McGovern-Dole Program and other collaborative school-feeding initiatives can break the cycle of hunger and poverty and provide life-altering opportunities through education and improved health.
Robert Joseph “Bob” Dole was born on July 22, 1923 in Russell, Kansas. He studied at the University of Kansas (Lawrence) before WWII service interrupted his studies. During active duty as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, he was seriously wounded and received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster for heroic achievement. After the war, he continued his studies and earned a B.A. and LL.B. from Washburn University in 1952.
Senator Dole spent 35 years in Congress, with his first election to Congress in 1960 by his home state of Kansas. He was subsequently elected to the U.S. Senate in 1968. He served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1971 to 1972 and ran as Gerald Ford’s vice presidential running mate in the 1976 Presidential election. Senator Dole served as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee from 1981 to 1985 and was elected Senate Majority Leader in 1984, holding the record as the nation’s longest serving Republican leader. He resigned from the Senate in 1996 to pursue his campaign for the 1996 Presidential election as the Republican presidential nominee.
Senator Dole served as National Chairman of the World War II Memorial Campaign from 1997 to 2004 and Chairman of the International Commission on Missing Persons in former Yugoslavia from 1997-2001. In 2001, Senator Dole and the University of Kansas crafted the Dole Institute of Politics, which houses and catalogs his congressional papers for research use, and offers opportunities for individuals to learn about public policy making.
In 2007, former President George W. Bush appointed Senator Dole as a co-chair of the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors, which would investigate problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Senator Dole is currently special counsel at the Washington, D.C. law firm of Alston & Bird, and a member of the Legislative & Public Policy Group.
In 1997, Senator Dole received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the nation’s highest civilian honor. Some of his other celebrated honors include the Presidential Citizens Medal (the nation’s second highest civilian award), the Distinguished Service Award from the United States Association of Former Members of Congress, the American Legion's prestigious Distinguished Service Medal, the Horatio Alger Award from The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, the U.S. Defense Department’s Distinguished Public Service Award, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Teddy Roosevelt Award. Also, in 2004, Senator Dole received the Golden Medal of Freedom from the President of Kosovo for his support of the protection, freedom, independence and democracy of Kosovo.
Senator Dole has served as President of the Federal City Council in Washington, D.C., honorary co-chair of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, associate of the U.S.A. Freedom Corps, and Chairman of the Board of The Dole Foundation, which he established in 1983 to advance educational and workforce opportunities for the disabled. The Robert Dole Scholarship Fund for Disabled Students has been established in his honor at the United Negro College Fund.
Senator Dole’s record of public service includes numerous distinguished appointments including advisor for the U.S. Delegation to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO), member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, member of the National Commission on Social Security Reform, and member of the U.S. National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). He currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Senator Dole is the author of a World War II memoir, One Soldier’s Story, which chronicles his experience during the time of the war and conveys the lessons he learned through his struggle to survive. He is also the author of two books on political humor, Great Presidential Wit, I Wish I Was In the Book and Great Political Wit, Laughing (Almost) All the Way to the White House.
The son of a Wesleyan Methodist minister, George McGovern was born in Avon, South Dakota on July 19, 1922. His proficiency in high school debate won him a scholarship at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, and he began his studies there in 1940. World War II interrupted his education in 1943. He flew 35 combat missions as a B-24 bomber pilot in Europe and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts. After the war, he returned to Dakota Wesleyan University and graduated in 1946. Senator McGovern attended Garrett Seminary for one year before enrolling at Northwestern University in Chicago, where he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in American history and government.
Senator McGovern returned to Dakota Wesleyan University in 1950 as a professor of history and political science. He taught until 1955, when he decided to begin his political career by reorganizing the South Dakota Democratic Party. He was elected to Congress in 1956 and re-elected in 1958. As a congressman, he was an advocate for the American farmer.
In 1960, after losing his first bid for the U.S. Senate, former President John F. Kennedy named Senator McGovern the first director of the Food for Peace Program and Special Assistant to the President. In this position he oversaw the donation of millions of tons of food to developing nations.
Senator McGovern was elected to the Senate in 1962 and re-elected in 1968 and 1974. He served as a member of the Senate committees on agriculture, nutrition, forestry and foreign relations, as well as the Joint Economic Committee. While on these committees, he led the way in expanding key nutrition programs.
In 1972, Senator McGovern was selected as the Democratic Party nominee for president. Later, in 1976, President Gerald Ford named Senator McGovern a United Nations delegate to the General Assembly and in 1978, President Jimmy Carter named him a United Nations delegate for the Special Session on Disarmament.
Senator McGovern retired from the Senate in 1980 after 22 years of service. After leaving the Senate, he became a visiting professor at numerous institutions, including Columbia University, Northwestern University, Cornell University, American University and the University of Berlin.
Senator McGovern served as the president of the Middle East Policy Council from 1991 until 1998, when President Clinton appointed him ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.
In 2001, Senator McGovern was appointed the first United Nations World Food Programme Global Ambassador on Hunger. In this position, McGovern continues his leadership in the effort to end world hunger.
Senator McGovern has received many honorary degrees and distinguished awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor, which was presented to him by former President Bill Clinton in 2000.
The McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service was dedicated in 2006 and was named in honor of George and Eleanor McGovern (his deceased wife).
Senator McGovern is a prolific author and has lectured at more than 1,000 colleges and universities around the world. Some of his works include an autobiography entitled Grassroots and two books entitled The Third Freedom: Ending Hunger in Our Time and Lincoln.
Global Food for Education Initiative
Food for Peace Program
Senator Bob Dole Official Website
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
U.S. Federal Food Stamp Program
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
United Nations World Food Programme
United Negro College Fund