A Career of Service: Matz Awarded Lifetime Achievement Award by Congressional Hunger Center

This evening, the Congressional Hunger Center will present its 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award to Marshall Matz.  However, if you were to ask him, Marsh would tell you that receiving a “Lifetime Achievement Award” does not mean he’s done advocating for public policy to address pressing food security and nutrition challenges. Others, such as former Senate Majority and Minority Leader Tom Daschle, feel similarly. “My only reluctance in presenting him with a ‘lifetime achievement award’ now is that he has many years to go before his lifetime work is complete,” said Daschle. In reviewing the progress that has been made throughout his career, as well the work that remains, it is clear that Marshall is far from done, and in fact, that his passion and drive have only increased with time.

A bright-eyed kid from West Haven, Connecticut, with dreams of helping others, Marshall headed off to South Dakota after earning his law degree from the University of Louisville in 1971. His first job was with South Dakota Legal Services, providing representation to Native Americans. It was in South Dakota that he would find his next adventure with Senator George McGovern, who would eventually bring him to DC. However, South Dakota became “home” to Marshall.  To this day, when you ask him where he is from, he will always say “South Dakota” with great pride.

McGovern, Matz and Dole in the Senate Ag Committee Hearing room.

Senator McGovern named Marshall as Counsel to then Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, as well as the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Marshall worked closely with the Chairman and Ranking Member of these respective committees, Senator McGovern and Senator Bob Dole from Kansas. Marshall treasures this period of his career, and the friendship he built with both Senators. McGovern joined OFW Law after his leave from Congress, and remained a colleague until his passing. Today, there is a conference room at OFW Law dedicated to Senator McGovern. Senator Bob Dole and Marshall have also remained close friends and confidants.  

“Marshall is a longtime friend, who has been very helpful to me over the years,” said Dole. “He worked with Senator McGovern on hunger issues, writing McGovern’s speeches as well as mine. I believe the hunger program, named after McGovern and me, may have saved thousands and thousands of lives since it began. Marshall has been a positive force in the continuing fight against global hunger.” 

It was during this time that Marshall spearheaded notable strides in important nutrition and hunger programs. Former Congressional Hunger Center Executive Director Ed Cooney and his wife, Lynn Parker, who has handled nutrition issues at the Food Research and Action Center and the Institute Of Medicine, reflected on Marshall’s accomplishments from his time on the Hill. “In the 70s, as a Senate counsel to Senators George McGovern and Robert Dole, he played an essential role in their successful creation of WIC, the expansion of high quality school meals programs, and increased benefits for Food Stamp participants. He helped protect nutrition standards in child nutrition in the 80’s and 90’s and later championed the creation and expansion of the McGovern/Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program.”

These programs have stood the test of time, and continue to help those in need today, although they may go by different names. For example, he developed the first Dietary Goals for the United States in 1977, which has transformed from a three-fold brochure to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans published every five years by the US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Health and Human Service. The next iteration in the works is due to be released in 2020. “Millions of people have had healthier, more productive lives because of the commitment and leadership of Marshall Matz” said Catherine Bertini, former Executive Director of the World Food Program and former USDA Assistant Secretary of Food and Consumer Services.

Matz advises Sen. Dole.

After leaving Congress, Marshall was determined to continue helping others gain access to both domestic and international food and nutrition programs. His footprint can be seen across many Administrations, Congresses and non-profits all working to end hunger. Pete Rouse, former Acting White House Chief of Staff during the Obama Administration, put it best when he said, “His contribution to advancing policy related to food security and nutrition from the Mississippi Delta to Indian Country to Africa over his career is unsurpassed.”

One way he continued the fight against hunger was by joining the boards of organizations with missions to address food security and malnutrition. Earlier this year, Marshall stepped off the Food Research Action Center (FRAC) board after some 30 years serving—although neither FRAC staff nor Marshall can recall the exact number of years he served on the board.

From left to right: Cathy Bertini, McGovern, Dole and Matz pose for a picture.

Jim Weill, President of FRAC said, “we at FRAC have been especially fortunate to have had Marshall on our Board of Directors for the majority of his working lifetime, throughout which he has been dedicated to alleviating hunger and poverty in the United States and abroad. Millions of children in the U.S. and worldwide will live longer, be healthier and achieve better educational outcomes due to Marsh’s tireless advocacy.” FRAC is committed to working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States.

The Global Child Nutrition Foundation (GCNF) was founded in 2006 by the School Nutrition Association to provide technical assistance and training on school meal programs in developing countries as the demand for these programs grew. Marshall served on their board for many years and his first lifetime award, the Gene White Lifetime Achievement Award for Child Nutrition, was presented by GCNF in 2009. This award is given to honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the worldwide dream of ending childhood hunger.  Marshall’s work on the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program – which donates meals from US commodities to schools in need around the world – earned him this distinguished award. Again, he would have told you then he was not done yet, and he certainly was right.

Gene White, whose name sits on Marshall’s first Lifetime Achievement Award, has appreciated their many decades of working together from the School Nutrition Association to GCNF. “The following quote helps us better understand the meaning of lifetime commitment. It speaks to my cherished work and lasting friendship with Marshall. We have always believed that his work helps make the world a better place and especially for children: ‘Peace begins when the hungry are fed; the future begins when they are educated,’” she said. Former USDA Deputy Under Secretary of Food Nutrition and Consumer Services and former School Nutrition Association President Katie Wilson understands that “for decades Marshall has been a tireless advocate to give ALL children better access to meals at school, improving their opportunities to succeed by diminishing the distraction of hunger and food insecurity.”

The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Farm Corporation also holds a special place in Marshall’s heart. From his time with South Dakota Legal Services, he saw first-hand the struggle many tribes were facing economically, making access to food a tough reality. He has devoted much of his career helping tribes in agriculture. “As a legal aide and also through his actions, he has shown how much he cares for not only Lower Brule and Crow Creek but all of Indian country… I also know personally the positive effects it has on our people at a local level… I couldn’t think of a more deserving person to be honored with this Lifetime Achievement award. He is a man truly devoted to ending world hunger. I am proud to serve our people alongside him on the Farm Board and even more proud to call him my friend,” said Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Chairman Boyd Gourneau.

Some twenty years ago, Marshall was a driving force behind the creation of the World Food Program USA (WFP USA), which fundraises to provide financial resources to the World Food Program (WFP). The WFP is committed to delivering food assistance in times of emergencies and building agriculture capacity around the world. Once WFP USA was up and running, Marshall served as its first Chairman, and today, he is an Honorary Board Member. His work on the board impacted many who served alongside him including former Secretary John Block, “I saw his passion for food security first hand when he was the Chairman of the Friends of the World Food Program, which inspired the board’s work even more.”

WFP USA President and CEO Rick Leach said, “From service in the Senate with George McGovern and Bob Dole to address hunger in America to serving as founding chair of WFP USA to further US leadership in alleviating global hunger, Marshall has had a direct impact on millions of people. He’s a true American hero.”

Marshall’s guidance is still sought and valued among leaders at the WFP. Executive Director David Beasley said, “If character is measured by what one will do for someone who can never pay them back, it would mean that the breadth of Marshall Matz’s character would be impossible to measure… Much has been achieved thanks to his work, and though there is much left to do, we all should be grateful that we have Marshall to guide us through it. I and others need his wisdom and guidance as we keep working to end hunger around the world.”

While working to ensure those who are hungry are fed, Marshall has also focused on growing agriculture capacity among small holder farmers in areas still struggling to provide enough food for their own population. Over the years, Marshall has worked closely with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to bring US agriculture practices, tools and extension techniques to the continent of Africa.

“Time and again he has consistently reached out across the political divide to advocate, and explain that given the correct support in areas such as seed systems, better farming methods, access to markets, these poor, African smallholder farmers can increase their productivity, and play a significant role in not only their own food security, but in so doing also help ensure global peace and security by providing jobs to young people who would otherwise fall prey to extremist views or the need to make perilous migrations,” an observation shared by Strive Masiyiwa, Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet Wireless and the Board Chair of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. From this work Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Chairman Emeritus of AGRA, gave Marshall the title of “Ambassador” to the US on food security. 

Marshall has become famous within the food and agriculture policy community for demonstrating the “AGRA rope,” technology which many small holder farmers in Africa. This simple advocacy tool helps to showcase the reality facing farmers in Africa to DC policy makers, such as Senator Pat Roberts, Chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, who said “This award signifies his long-term commitment to feeding a troubled and hungry world, and is well-deserved.”

Matz explains to Sen. Roberts the AGRA rope.

And, of course, Marshall currently serves as the Board Secretary to the Congressional Hunger Center (CHC). Chair of the CHC Board Congressman Jim McGovern noted that “Marshall has dedicated his career to righting this wrong and fighting this [chronic hunger] injustice…His concern for those who struggle inspires and uplifts everyone who has the privilege of working with him. I am truly proud to call Marshall a friend, and even prouder to work alongside him to continue the fight to end hunger once and for all.”

Kat Emerson, daughter of Bill and Jo Ann Emerson, said on behalf of the Emerson family that “Marshall’s personal commitment to ending hunger has been a constant drumbeat for the whole community.” Bill Emerson was one of the Congressional leaders who founded the CHC, which then created the Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellows Program to honor his legacy and commitment to the fight to end hunger. Marshall shares that same passion and “has proven during his lifetime of advocating for those in need that compassion is not a sign of weakness but rather a reflection of immense strength,” according to former USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Marshall has been “truly a champion for food and nutrition security” as Ann Veneman, former UNICEF Executive Director and USDA Secretary, put it. In fact, his work has become so well known throughout the decades, that Lynn Parker tells of a story when she was teaching a nutrition class at Tufts when one student asked, “Do all nutrition roads lead to Marshall Matz?” And her reply was simple. “Yes.”

As we know this is not the last we’ll see or hear from Marshall, for all roads lead to him and “he will continue to contribute for a long time to come. And untold numbers of the world’s children will be the beneficiaries,” Tom Daschle determined.

To the left: Matz, Dole, Daschle, and McGovern pose for a picture.

Brett Schwemer, OFW Law’s Managing Partner said upon the announcement, “We are very proud of Marshall’s work and the contribution he has made to domestic and global food security.”


Subscribe to receive OFW’s Food & Agriculture World Insights Newsletter.