George McGovern: Saluting a Champion of Children

November 7, 2012 – Following the death of Sen. George McGovern in October, SNA mourns the loss of a fierce advocate for children and a staunch supporter of school nutrition programs. While the news media announcing his passing may have led their stories with references to his historic loss in a 1972 bid to lead the nation as president, SNA and its members count the many victories McGovern made as a champion in the fight against hunger and poverty in this country and around the world.

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George McGovern, seen here with GCNF President Gene White, is remembered as a staunch supporter of school nutrition programs.

Sen. McGovern made a commitment to fight hunger back in the 1960s, inspiring many political allies and rivals to action. Most notably, the lifelong Democrat’s enduring partnership with Republican Sen. Bob Dole led to the expansion of several federal nutrition programs (including school lunch and breakfast) and the establishment of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. Over the years, even after leaving the Senate, both men worked together to lead numerous campaigns and initiatives to address hunger issues here and abroad.

“I remember Sen. George McGovern with great admiration and appreciation for his leadership and advocacy in expanding the scope of child nutrition and authorizing changes that assured adequate funding for meals served,” recounted Dr. Josephine Martin, an SNA Past President and former Executive Director of the National Food Service Management Institute. “He listened to our needs, welcomed our requests and responded with positive action.”

In particular, Martin cites McGovern’s assistance with the replacement of a fixed annual appropriation for reimbursement to Congress, authorizing “such sums as necessary” to reimburse all approved meals served by category (free, reduced and paid) for both school lunch and school breakfast. “In effect, this authorized entitlement funding assuring sustainability of meals for children throughout the school year and, even more important, sustainability of meal programs within a dynamic economic environment,” she noted.

Gene White, President of the Global Child Nutrition Foundation and an SNA Past President, reflected on McGovern’s commitment: “He viewed ending hunger as a lifelong call to action, and in the process, convinced the world that children should be fed at school.” She also praised his ability to put aside political differences to seek solutions. “The McGovern legacy speaks to us all. We have witnessed the importance of putting differences aside to achieve a shared goal, the value of unwavering commitment to a worthy cause and the strength of humanitarian leadership to do the right thing for children.”

Marshall Matz, SNA’s Washington counsel for more than 30 years, enjoyed a close professional and personal relationship with the Senator. “His most enduring legacy…will be in the fight against hunger here at home and around the world,” said Matz in a statement. “As was noted by President Bill Clinton, when he awarded George McGovern the Presidential medal of Freedom, George McGovern was one of the greatest humanitarians of our time. … His legacy on food and nutrition is without equal and will be felt all over the world for many years to come.”

White echoed that assurance of McGovern’s lasting legacy. “These children may never know Senator McGovern by name, but they will never forget that school meals helped them attend school and receive an education.”

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McGovern is seen here at SNA's 2010 Legislative Action Conference with SNA Past Presidents Helen Phillips, Dora Rivas and Nancy Rice.

SNA members at the national, state and local level feel the loss of this friend of school nutrition deeply. A delegation of members from SNA South Dakota were in attendance at the Senator’s funeral on October 26 in Sioux Falls, S.D.; the state affiliate also contributed a memorial donation of $302—$1 for each of its members.

For the complete texts of the statements of tribute from Martin, Matz and White, see the Related Links. Please share your own thoughts and reflections of the Senator’s life, work and enduring legacy in the comments section below.

Related Links:

Tribute from Dr. Josephine Martin

Tribute from Marshall Matz

Tribute from Gene White

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