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William Lambers is an author who partnered with the U.N. World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.”
I first knew of Bob Dole from watching C-Span while in college. Sen. Dole was on TV often as a prominent senator and presidential candidate, running against Bill Clinton in 1996. There were also popular skits on Saturday Night Live featuring Dole that many of us remember, which even he poked fun at.
One of the first things I learned about Dole was his heroic service in World War II, and overcoming devastating injuries suffered in combat. He emerged from that adversity and won election to Congress, eventually becoming a leader in the U.S. Senate.
Bob Dole is remembered as the former senator, a World War II hero and a presidential candidate. But his legacy of service goes much further.
Dole was a dedicated leader in the fight against world hunger. During his distinguished career in the U.S. Senate, Dole championed feeding the hungry, including developing our national school lunch program, SNAP program and the WIC program that feeds infants and mothers. Barron Segar of the World Food Program USA says “Throughout his long career in Congress, Senator Dole was one of the most effective champions of nearly every domestic U.S. government program aimed at preventing and ameliorating hunger.”
Dole not only believed fighting hunger was important for domestic policy, but also vital for our foreign policy.
Along with former Sen. George McGovern, Dole championed a global school meal initiative. The McGovern-Dole program, run by the U. S. Department of Agriculture provides school meals to children in impoverished countries. The UN World Food Program, Catholic Relief Services, CARE, Save the Children and other charities receive funding from McGovern-Dole to provide these life changing meals. McGovern-Dole also demonstrated the bipartisan spirit of Bob Dole, a Republican who worked with McGovern, a Democrat. By putting aside politics things get done, hungry children were fed.
As we speak, children in Ethiopia, a country on the brink of famine, are benefiting from school meals from Dole’s initiative. Likewise in Burkina Faso, another country threatened by famine, McGovern-Dole school meals are also making a big difference.
In 2008, Dole shared the World Food Prize with McGovern for his dedication to fighting hunger. I got a chance to contribute to the production of the World Food Prize film highlighting Dole and the global school meals.
Dole continued to advocate for school meals, even resisting ill-advised attempts by the Trump administration to eliminate the program back in 2017. The McGovern-Dole program has continued and became a lifesaver during the pandemic providing home-delivered food in countries where there were lockdowns.
The McGovern-Dole global school meals program is American foreign policy at its best, very much in the Spirit of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt nations from World War II. Since 2018, I have been proud to advocate for increasing the funding to McGovern-Dole to $300 million a year, which hopefully the Congress will soon do.
As Dole warned “We increasingly face potential intergenerational losses from hunger: These children do not grow up to build prosperous economies or peaceful societies.” One of the ways we can stop these tragic losses is building national school lunch programs in every country, a goal McGovern-Dole supports.
Bob Dole believed in a world where every child should receive school lunches. He believed no child should go hungry, a goal that can be achieved if we all have the same will.