The World Food Prize Foundation Offers Tribute to 2008 Laureate Senator Bob Dole

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08 December 2021, US: On behalf of all of the World Food Prize Laureates and our Council of Advisors, the World Food Prize Foundation extends its deepest condolences to Senator Elizabeth Dole and the family, friends and colleagues of Senator Bob Dole, 2008 World Food Prize Laureate, who passed away on December 5, 2021.

Barbara L. Stinson, President of the World Food Prize Foundation, paid tribute to Senator Dole, saying, “Senator Bob Dole was foremost among America’s leaders and advocates dedicated to empowering those who so often are left behind, including the hungry, the disabled, and our veterans. The legislation that he supported and helped pass, including the McGovern-Dole Program and the Americans with Disabilities Act, are a testament to his great ability to reach across the aisle to make significant advances on these important issues. His entire career is an inspiration to all who work in public service, and he will be greatly missed.”

Senator Dole was honored in 2008 as the World Food Prize co-Laureate with former Senator George McGovern for 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, particularly girls. 

Child nutrition continued to be an important issue for Senator Dole throughout his last years. On the occasion of awarding the 2018 World Food Prize to two more champions of child nutrition, Dr. Lawrence Haddad and Dr. David Nabarro, Senator Dole wrote in a Borlaug Blog, “Every child deserves an opportunity to fulfill their potential. No one knows which child will become the next great inventor, scientist or political leader. We must start by focusing on the first 1,000 days of life, then recognize that child nutrition should be a part of any comprehensive food security policy statement. This is a matter of just being practical. A hungry child cannot learn, and an uneducated adult will not be productive. This is beyond partisanship or ideology.”

Throughout his distinguished career, Senator Robert Dole, working hand-in-hand with his WFP co-recipient, Democratic Senator George McGovern, dedicated himself to the elimination of hunger at home and abroad.

Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President Emeritus of the World Food Prize Foundation, remembers, “As he received the World Food Prize with McGovern, Dole said, ‘Here we are two losers (referring to their unsuccessful runs for the presidency), who are finally winners.’ Dole then recounted how hungry people would knock on the door of their farmhouse in Kansas during the Depression, seeking to work for food. Dole shared with Norman Borlaug and George McGovern that experience of coming face to face with hunger in the U.S. during the Depression. For all of them, it was the motivation to counter hunger in the world.”

In the 1970s, as leaders of opposing political parties, Dole and McGovern worked together to reform the Food Stamp Program (later 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, Senators Dole and McGovern built a broad, non-partisan consensus in the U.S. Congress in support of anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs. By the early 21st century, the national school lunch program they fostered was providing meals to approximately 30 million children across the United States.

Dr. Lawrence Haddad, 2018 WFP Laureate and Executive Director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, said, “As a young undergraduate in the UK in the 1970s, I used to read about the war on hunger led by U.S. Senators McGovern and Dole. They inspired me to work on these issues and they convinced me it was as much a political as a technical issue. In Bob Dole, we lost one of the great warriors against hunger this week – but his legacy endures.”

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.

U.S. 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.

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 Senators Dole and McGovern, Congress passed legislation establishing a permanent international school feeding program. In 2002, U.S. 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 fed millions of children in schools across the globe in 41 countries. Between 2002 and 2008, the program boosted school attendance by an estimated 14 percent overall, and by 17 percent for girls. So far, it has reached more than 40 million children, according to a 2016 report by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

“The McGovern-Dole program is a great source of pride for USDA and a remarkable example of American generosity and humanitarian leadership,” said Ed Schafer, then U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, at the Announcement Ceremony of the 2008 World Food Prize Laureates. “I congratulate Senators McGovern and Dole on this well-deserved honor.”

The success of the McGovern-Dole Program reignited global interest in and support for school feeding, which had become a relatively low international priority by the 1990s. School feeding was highlighted in the UN Millennium Project’s ten key recommendations for achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. With increased funding, the UN World Food Programme’s global school feeding initiative – the world’s largest such program – reached more than 20 million children in 74 countries in 2006. Eleven million of these were in Africa, and over 50 percent of them were girls.

“Senators McGovern and Dole are tireless champions in the battle against hunger, and are an enormous inspiration,” said Josette Sheeran, then Executive Director of the World Food Programme, upon the Announcement of the 2008 World Food Prize Laureates. “They have given millions of children a chance to dream – and to live healthy lives – through school feeding.”

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.

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 showed it is possible to break the cycle of hunger and poverty and provide life-altering opportunities through education and improved health.

BIO

Robert Joseph “Bob” Dole was born in 1923 in Russell, Kansas. Later in life, he spoke movingly of the hunger he witnessed growing up during the Great Depression. He studied at the University of Kansas before military service in World War II 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 one Oak Leaf Cluster for heroic achievement. After the war, he continued his college studies and earned a B.A. and LL.B. from Washburn University in 1952.

Dole spent 35 years in Congress, with his first election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1960 from his home state of Kansas. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1968, and served two stints as the Senate majority leader. Dole ran as U.S. President Gerald Ford’s vice presidential running mate in the 1976 presidential election and was the Republican Party candidate for President in 1996.

Senator Dole received numerous honors and awards throughout his life. In 1997, Senator Dole received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. In 2018, Senator Dole received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress. 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. 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. And in 2013, Vice President Joseph Biden presented him with the World Food Program USA’s newly christened George McGovern and Bob Dole Leadership Award.

Senator Dole’s record of public service includes numerous distinguished appointments, including advisor for the U.S. Delegation to the U.N. 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 U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). He also served on the Advisory Board of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

As a service-disabled World War II veteran, Senator Dole was a tireless advocate for veterans and disabled people throughout his career. He played an instrumental role in the passage and implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, as well as the formation of the support base for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

“My grandparents were tenant farmers [in Russell, Kansas]. Some made it, and some didn’t. And they didn’t. As county attorney at the time, I had to approve welfare checks, and two of those went to my grandparents,” Senator Dole recalled in an address while receiving the World Food Prize in 2008. “You learn that there are people out there who need help. They may be very poor people. They may be disabled. They may be senior citizens. They may be dependent children. We do have a responsibility, when nobody else is going to do it.”

The path-breaking accomplishments of Bob 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.

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