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World Food Prize 2008: Fighting World Hunger

posted on October 17, 2008 at 2:46 PM

Yeager: In recent months a score of countries have endured food riots in the face of sharply rising costs.  Governments have been shaken.  Instability is a persistent under current in countries whose populations until recently seemed to be edging closer to a middle class standard of living.  Food is power.  It can determine the survival of a culture, define a nation and provide a foundation for peace.  No one has understood that principle better than tonight's World Food Prize winners.

Throughout the world in particularly developing countries 300 million children are hungry.  The cycle of hunger and poverty in school children has disastrous effects on literacy and education levels.  World hunger experts proclaim a hungry child's mind can not fill with knowledge until their stomachs are full with nutritious food.  Inspired by what they deem a silent killer two Midwestern politicians have devoted much of their careers to stomping out child hunger.

McGovern: Food is health.  Food is stability.  And food can serve the cause of freedom and peace if it is used to reduce hunger and misery in the world.

Two long time senators from opposing political parties, democrat George McGovern of South Dakota and Republican Bob Dole of Kansas, first joined forces in the 1970s.  Together the bipartisan team helped expand the successful domestic school lunch program, WIC, which provides education and food for infants, children and pregnant women.  Years later the unlikely political bedfellows would turn their legislative hunger efforts abroad and bring new meaning to bipartisanship.  But despite their obvious political divide Dole and McGovern have strikingly similar backgrounds.  Both men grew up in the agricultural belts of the Midwest and served America in World War II.  Rampant hunger in the European theatre had a lasting effect on both men and would later shape their views on global nutrition programs. 

After the war their separate political careers brought them to the U.S. Senate and eventually to the pinnacle of presidential politics only to fall short in decisive general elections -- McGovern's 1972 landslide loss to President Richard Nixon and Dole's 1996 setback against President Bill Clinton.  In the 1990s both men worked to revive school nutrition and education programs across the globe and in 2000 a pilot program was launched.  With support for President Bill Clinton the U.S. Department of Agriculture began providing meals to children in 38 countries.  Successful lobbying by Dole and McGovern led to congressional support for a permanent international school lunch program and in 2002 President George W. Bush officially signed into law the George McGovern-Bob Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program.  To date the McGovern-Dole program reaches 22 million children in more than 40 different countries.  The improved nutrition levels have proven world hunger theories correct by boosting school attendance and academic performance.  The results have not been lost on former Senators George McGovern and Bob Dole or the millions of children benefiting from a warm meal.

Sheeran: All the way from Ghana in northern Ghana we send greetings from the school feeding program here in Boom Boom and all of these children who look so healthy.  Thank you Senator McGovern and Senator Dole.  You are an inspiration to children all over the world with your passion and commitment to ensure that at least every child on Earth has a cup of porridge every day.  It makes all the difference in the world and these children's lives are transformed.

Tags: hunger Iowa politics poverty World Food Prize


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