WFP USA CEO Richard Leach’s Remarks at “Food for Peace: Celebrating 60 Years of Help and Hope”

Published July 10, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rick Leach, President and CEO of World Food Program USA, delivered remarks at an event on Capitol Hill honoring the 60th anniversary of the U.S. government Food For Peace legislation. Below are his full remarks.

“Thank you for the opportunity to celebrate the anniversary of the Food For Peace program. As many of you know, since its launch in 1954, this program has reached 3 billion people across the world with life-saving food. That’s almost half the world’s population. 


We’re also here today to pay tribute to those past and present who made this groundbreaking program possible, people like the late Senator George McGovern, the nation’s first Food For Peace director, whose birthday would have been next week.


I had the great honor of traveling to Kenya with Senator McGovern to witness Food For Peace’s impact firsthand. During that trip, Senator McGovern told me he hadn’t visited Kenya since his days serving under JFK, who appointed him to oversee Food For Peace during its first year. The people of Kenya remembered Senator McGovern and treated him like a head of state. 


Both JFK and McGovern understood why a program like Food For Peace is so important – not in just saving lives, but in spreading American values and inspiring friendship.


Each time I see a bag of grain in Kenya stamped with the American flag, I feel proud of this country and its values.  What an incredible gift from the American people. These bags of grain are the embodiment of America’s soft power. They represent saved lives and lasting goodwill.


Food For Peace is more than a life-saving program. It’s a statement about the American people: who we are, what we stand for, the traditions that unite us as a country.


This program’s success also speaks to deep, unwavering bipartisan support in Congress, and what we can accomplish when we all work together. While there may be issues of contention, this is not one of them. 


Solving global hunger is a cause that transcends party, transcends whoever sits in the White House. For the past 60 years, the United States has contributed more than any other nation to making sure children don’t go hungry—no matter where they live.


Because a hungry child knows no border.


And like any good American tradition, Food for Peace continues to evolve. What began as a simple idea has since become a sophisticated operation based on greatest need and market analysis.


Technology combined with experience means that we are reaching more people more effectively than ever before. Even today, our programs are more efficient than they were 5 years ago, which is a tribute to the team at USAID.


Because of the tireless work and commitment of people in this room and beyond, we are on our way to a future with zero hunger.


JFK said it best during the program’s early days: “Food is strength, and food is peace, and food is freedom, and food is a helping hand to people around the world.”


We can and will end hunger in our lifetimes, thanks in part to Food For Peace and all of you.”

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