ROME--WFP today mourns the loss of US Senator George McGovern, a founding father of WFP and lifelong advocate for the hungry.
McGovern remained deeply committed to the issues of food and hunger through his political career, first in the House of Representatives and later in the Senate, where he chaired the Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs.
Appointed as the first director of the Food for Peace initiative by President John F. Kennedy, McGovern played an instrumental role in setting up the World Food Programme, which quickly grew to become the world’s largest humanitarian aid agency.
World Food Prize
He later served as US Ambassador to the UN Food Agencies in Rome, where he advocated in support of programmes such as school meals that improve child nutrition while helping to keep them in school.
Statement by WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin
"George McGovern saw – way before anyone else – how the simple, sustained act of putting a meal in the hands of a poor child at school could change that child’s life and give them a chance at a better future."
During the 1990s, McGovern teamed up with another former senator, Bob Dole, to revive and improve school feeding programmes around the world. Their efforts culminated in the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Programme, which today provides school meals to around 5 million children worldwide.
In recognition of their achievement, Dole and McGovern were together awarded with the World Food Prize in 2008.
In 2001, McGovern became WFP’s first Goodwill Ambassador travelling to the field on separate occasion to witness first-hand how his legacy had improved the lives of children and their families.
Touched millions of lives
At a 90th birthday celebration in July, WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin joined with close friends and colleagues to honour McGovern’s life and work in service to the world’s hungry.
"He served and benefited millions of hungry people around the world,” she said. “They might not know his name, but they are living another day because of George McGovern.”
A pilot in the second world war, McGovern went on to become a history professor in his native South Dakota before running for office in 1956. It was the start of a long and distinguished political career that included a nomination to run for president in 1972.