The fight against hunger lost one of its most dedicated foot soldiers this weekend. Former US Senator George McGovern was a dedicated champion of the world’s most vulnerable, working to improve nutrition and food security, particularly among schoolchildren, both at home and abroad.
“Today we have lost a tireless advocate for the world’s hungry,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, paying tribute to McGovern, who died at a hospice near his home in South Dakota on Sunday.
“His work drafting legislation in his own country to meet the nutritional needs of vulnerable women, infants and children and as a vigorous champion of school lunch programmes, both in the US and around the world, has helped give millions of the world’s poorest children the nutritional foundation needed to succeed in school and life,” Graziano da Silva said.
In 2000, in partnership with former Senator Bob Dole, he created the George McGovern-Robert Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, which commits an annual amount from the US federal budget to provide nutritious meals to poor students around the world.
Perhaps the most touching tribute to Senator McGovern came from his Republican colleague Senator Dole, who wrote: “There can be no doubt that throughout his half-century career in the public arena, George McGovern never gave up on his principles or in his determination to call our nation to a higher plain. America and the world are for the better because of him.”
McGovern and Dole were honoured in 2008 with the World Food Prize for, according to the prize organizers, “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”.
McGovern was appointed the first director of the US Food for Peace Programme by President John F. Kennedy in 1960 and was instrumental in the foundation of the World Food Programme in 1963. He served in the US Senate from 1963 to 1981 and ran for US president in 1972.
From 1998 to 2001, McGovern served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture.