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Robert Dole, George McGovern Awarded 2008 World Food Prize
DES MOINES, Iowa, June 13, 2008 (ENS) - For their international school feeding program and lifelong devotion to food security, former U.S. Senators Robert Dole and George McGovern have been selected to receive the prestigious $250,000 World Food Prize for 2008.

Announcing the award in a statement today, the World Food Prize said, "By exerting tireless and creative leadership, Senators McGovern and Dole took significant steps toward ending the cycle of hunger and poverty that affects as many as 300 million chronically malnourished children."

The senators are being honored for the McGovern-Dole international school-feeding program, first established by the United States in 2000. Since then, it has provided meals to feed more than 22 million children in 41 countries and boosted school attendance by an estimated 14 percent overall and by 17 percent for girls."

Boys at a school in the Dominincan Republic are fed under the Global Food for Education Initiative. (Photo courtesy USDA)

Throughout their careers, Senator McGovern, a South Dakota Democrat, and Senator Dole, a Kansas Republican, have dedicated themselves to the elimination of hunger.

In the 1970s, as leaders of opposing parties, they worked together to reform the federal Food Stamp Program, expand the domestic school lunch program, and establish the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children, WIC.

They built a non-partisan consensus for anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs. By the early 21st century, the national school lunch program they fostered was providing meals to 30 million children.

In the late 1990s, McGovern and Dole began working toward reviving and strengthening global school feeding, nutrition, and education programs.

They created a program that would provide poor children with meals at school in countries throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.

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. It submitted its final report in December 2004.

Former Senators George McGovern, left, and Bob Dole at the World Food Programme Hearings in the U.S. Senate, 2001. (Photo courtesy Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas)

Under the GFEI, the agricultural agency provided surplus commodities to school-feeding programs operated by international organizations including the UN 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 provide universal education.

With the support and urging of the two former senators, In 2002 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 - more usually known as the McGovern-Dole Program. The program has fed children in schools around the world every year since then.

Since it began as a pilot program in 2000, the McGovern-Dole Program has provided meals to 22 million children in 41 countries, including Afghanistan, Albania, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Malawi, Moldova, Nicaragua, Niger, Pakistan and Vietnam.

When children are eating enough, they display improved cognition and better all-round academic performance; there are increases in local employment and parental involvement in school activities; and participation by local governments in supporting school-feeding efforts, the senators recognize.

Girls attend this school in Bangladesh where food was offered by the Global Food for Education Initiative. (Photo courtesy USDA)

On the other hand, hungry children have difficulty learning, and malnutrition often leads to permanently stunted physical and cognitive development.

Inspired by McGovern and Dole, school feeding programs have gained recognition and support at the highest levels of national and international governance.

In 2002, the Group of Eight and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development 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 European Union, Canada, and Japan are now among the major providers of resources to global school feeding programs.

The McGovern-Dole Program emphasizes benefiting girls and young women and overcoming gender inequalities in literacy and access to education. 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.

But when meals are available at school, girls and young women are much more likely to be allowed or encouraged to enroll. The World Food Prize cites studies in Mexico showing that school feeding programs there have led to girl students’ finishing school at higher rates, 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.

Looking to the future, the McGovern-Dole Program is moving toward increasing the amount of cash awarded while also implementing a new bartering system to diversify the commodities and foodstuffs that the program provides.

Robert Joseph "Bob" Dole (born July 22, 1923) is an attorney and retired United States Senator from Kansas from 1969–1996, serving part of that time as United States Senate Majority Leader, where he set a record as the longest-serving Republican leader. He was the Republican nominee in the 1996 U.S. Presidential election and the Republican vice presidential nominee in the 1976 U.S. Presidential election. Dole is special counsel at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Alston & Bird.

George Stanley McGovern, (born July 19, 1922) of South Dakota is a former United States Representative from 1957-1961, Senator from 1963-1981, and Democratic presidential nominee. McGovern lost the 1972 presidential election to incumbent Richard Nixon. As a decorated World War II combat veteran, McGovern was noted for his opposition to the Vietnam War. The first director of President John F. Kennedy's Food for Peace program in 1961, he was appointed United Nations Ambassador on World Hunger in 2001.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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