INDIANAPOLIS – Lifelong advocate to relieve hunger in the world and 1972 Democratic candidate for U.S. President, Senator George McGovern of South Dakota, spoke June 6 to all three worship services at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church.
McGovern was introduced by Jim Morris, former director of the World Food Program based in Rome, Italy. Morris, a Presbyterian and “moderate Republican” called McGovern a remarkable man, one of the great humanitarians of our time, especially on the issue of world hunger. McGovern has worked with the Food for Peace program for 50 years, which has fed millions of people.
McGovern shared in his opening remarks his first glimpse of hunger entering Naples, Italy during World War 2. He said, “I pledged then that if I ever had a chance to speak out against hunger I would.” That opportunity came during President Kennedy’s administration (1960-1963) when he was named as the first director of the U.S. Food for Peace program, which brought together the agricultural community and the federal government to feed the hungry people not only overseas, but here in the United States. Domestically, McGovern said his efforts tripled the size of the federal food stamp program and increased the federal school lunch program, so that children in America would not go hungry.
He said his change in attitude about hunger in America came while watching a CBS-TV special titled “Hunger in America.” He said he saw in that report migrant labor camps, people living in shacks and hungry children in the slums of our great cities.
In the 1990s, President Clinton appointed him to Rome with the World Food Program. He discovered that we weren’t reducing the number of hungry people in the world as the population continues to increase. He urged the United Nations in Rome to provide a universal lunch program worldwide. He was appointed United Nations Ambassador on World Hunger in 2001.
Kansas U.S. Senator Bob Dole and McGovern were named the 2008 Word Food Prize Laureates for their work to promote school-feeding programs globally. McGovern continues to keep his optimism that we will eliminate hunger in the world. He said it’s not a problem of production, but a problem of distribution. “It’s a big order, but we can do it.”