Fighting hunger crosses party lines

Fighting hunger crosses party lines
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We could all use a story of civility and unity between Democrats and Republicans. Politics are nasty these days with name calling, demonizing of opponents and even threats of violence during campaign rallies. This sets a poor example for the rest of the nation, and leaves us feeling hopeless.

It does not have to be that way. There was once a pair of World War II veterans who after coming home decided to enter politics. One a Democrat and the other a Republican. Did each one hurl insults at the other for their whole career? No, they formed a partnership that even to this day continues to benefit Americans and the world through lasting initiatives. 

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Both were senators and presidential candidates: George McGovern (D-S.D.) and Bob Dole (R-Kan.). They each made a career of working together across party lines. 

During the war, they witnessed the horrible scenes of hunger in Europe. This made a lasting impression on both men. So as they embarked on political careers, they never forgot what hunger can do to an individual. 

McGovern became the Food or Peace director under President John F. Kennedy in 1961. Food for Peace, started during the Eisenhower administration, was created to feed the hungry overseas and promote stability. 

McGovern oversaw an expansion of Food for Peace. One of his trademark initiatives was school feeding. Millions of children in India, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Poland other nations received school meals via Food for Peace. This saved entire generations of children in these countries, which had been impacted by conflict or natural disasters. 

McGovern’s efforts also led to the creation of the UN World Food Program (WFP), an international food for peace effort. Today, the WFP is the largest hunger relief organization. Its largest donor is Food for Peace. 

When McGovern returned to Congress he teamed up with Dole who was moving up through the ranks onto the Senate. Both men found common ground on expanding our national school lunch program, a huge safety net for children in need. 

School breakfast and other initiatives were developed with McGovern and Dole both showing leadership. The WIC program feeding mothers and infants was created and the SNAP food stamp program was also improved by the two leaders.

Even when McGovern and Dole were retired from the Senate they still teamed up. They started the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program to feed hungry school children overseas. 

The program is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. McGovern-Dole funds charities like Catholic Relief Services, WFP, Save the Children, and Mercy Corps so they can provide school meals in developing countries. 

Haiti, Ethiopia, Mali, Kenya and Guatemala are some of the recipients of McGovern–Dole school meals. In fact, Kenya is in the process of taking over their school lunch program in counties with the support of McGovern-Dole and the World Food Program. That is the ultimate goal in having nations become self-sufficient in feeding themselves and providing school meals to children.

What better way to build peace around the world than through feeding children. Our history in World War II also showed us that when school lunches brought stability to Germany, Japan, Austria, France, Italy and other countries in need. 

Dole had to defend the program when President TrumpDonald John TrumpFamily says Trump travel ban preventing mother from seeing dying son Saudi Arabia rejects Senate position on Khashoggi killing Five things to know about the Trump inauguration investigation MORE tried to eliminate it via the budget. Dole and Republicans in Congress stood up for the McGovern-Dole initiative to save it when it was threatened by Trump. 

The next Congress should expand the McGovern-Dole program to help build peace around the world through school lunches.

At home, we need to end hunger for our communities to thrive. No one can reach their potential without food and nutrition.

Our next Congress should also expand summer feeding in the United States to reach all children who depend on the free lunches during the school year. Summer should not be a time of increased hunger. 

With inspiration from McGovern and Dole this can be achieved. McGovern and Dole are proof that Democrats and Republicans can work together across party lines. Everyone in politics can learn from their leadership and lasting legacy. 

William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.”