Congress Commemorates 20 Years of McGovern-Dole School Meals Program

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School children in a classroom in Senegal.
Senegal, 2012: Matam Province (Photo: Counterpart International)

Recognizing USDA’s two decades of success in alleviating childhood hunger and fostering literacy worldwide, the U.S. House of Representatives issued a resolution June 7 marking the 20th anniversary of the McGovern-Dole Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program.

“We’re proud that Congress has recognized this milestone,” said Foreign Agricultural Service Administrator Daniel Whitley. “And we’re even prouder of the fact that, during the 20-year history of the McGovern-Dole Program, USDA and its partners have made a positive difference in the lives of more than 31 million children and families in 48 countries.

“Senator – and later Ambassador – George McGovern and Senator Bob Dole left an incredible legacy. United by their shared values and their belief that all children should have access to nutritious food and to educational opportunities, they reached across the aisle and garnered bipartisan support for this life-saving program, which to date has provided more than 5.5 billion school meals,” Whitley said.

Signed into law as part of the 2002 Farm Bill, the McGovern-Dole Program focuses on reducing hunger and improving literacy and primary education, especially for girls, in developing countries around the globe. USDA partners with non-profit groups, cooperatives, and international organizations such as the United Nations World Food Program to provide not only school meals, but also teacher training and related support to help boost school enrollment and academic performance. At the same time, the program aims to improve children’s health and learning capacity even before they enter school by offering nutrition and support services for pregnant and nursing women, infants, and pre-schoolers. 

The support of the U.S. agricultural community is vital to the success of the McGovern-Dole Program, with more than 1.3 million metric tons of donated U.S. commodities being used to create nutritious, culturally appropriate school meals throughout the years

“Two decades after the inception of this program, food security remains at the forefront of our minds and our work – especially as we confront the global challenges of war, pandemic, and climate change,” Whitley said. “As we mark the 20th anniversary of the McGovern-Dole Program, USDA remains committed to not only carrying on the legacy of Ambassador McGovern and Senator Dole, but to also leading the U.S. government and the world by example, encouraging innovative partnerships and solutions to tackle hunger and poverty.”

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