Interview with Daniel Shaughnessy, Chairman of the Board of World Hunger Education Service
(June 27, 2013) World Hunger Education Service (WHES), which publishes “Hunger Notes,” began 37 years ago. Daniel Shaughnessy has been Chairman of the WHES Board for 13 years.
Shaughnessy has dedicated almost all of his adult life to combating hunger and addressing worldwide food issues. He began his career at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in program support for the Office of Food For Peace (FFP) and the then Office of Special Assistant to the President for Food For Peace in the White House. In the ensuing years, he held a wide range of senior positions in Executive Branch agencies, the US Senate (where he worked for then Senator Hubert Humphrey), private sector trade associations, and as CEO of a worldwide NGO. He has an MA in Business and Public Administration from George Washington University and was selected as a Charter Member of the Senior Executive Service before he was 40.
After his initial assignments in USAID/Washington, Shaughnessy went to India in 1968 to obtain field experience and direct the world’s largest food aid program. At that time, India had recently experienced a massive famine and food shortages. There he oversaw the Food for Peace distribution of food aid and facilitated the expansion of food aid into the development activities of some of the largest US non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as CARE, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Church World Service. One important development he helped to foster was the partnership of local NGOs with international NGOs, thereby combining their expertise and knowledge of local conditions. One highlight of those activities was the blending and processing of grains locally for use in feeding programs. Mr. Shaughnessy later became the Director for Food and Nutrition in USAID/India. He describes his work there as “a threshold for me…. my India experience has contributed considerably to all other aspects of my career”.
Shaughnessy returned to USAID/Washington to direct the worldwide PL 480 Title II program in 1972, but with international food shortages and related US government polices dealing with food aid becoming major Congressional concerns, he was reassigned from USAID to the US Senate in 1973 to assist Senator Humphrey’s agricultural staff with food aid issues. Ultimately, the growing worldwide concern about food policy and related issues led to the establishment of the first major United Nations conference on food – The UN World Food Conference of 1974. With the US having sounded the initial call for the Conference, a special support staff headed by an experienced Ambassador was established in the State Department and Shaughnessy was assigned as Deputy Director for US involvement, helping to coordinate US policy approaches and providing technical advice on food aid. He then served as an official US delegate to the Conference for its two week deliberations in Rome, Italy, where he also coordinated US NGO involvement in the Conference and acted as press officer.
“The World Food Conference was a turning point in worldwide recognition of the importance of food issues and related agriculture solutions” Shaughnessy notes. “The Conference support for agricultural development and the establishment of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), together with setting targets for nutritional goals, allowed US government policy to became more focused on hunger and food.”
In 1978, Shaughnessy’s range of experience with food and hunger issues, including legislative processes and private sector involvement, led to his selection, over many other candidates, as Executive Director of the Presidential Commission on Hunger. The Commission, a “Blue Ribbon Panel”, authorized by Congress and endorsed by President Carter, was tasked with identifying the basic causes of hunger; assessing current programs, and making recommendations for improvement. Members of the Commission included many prominent people – among them four members of Congress, the Presidents of Tufts and Johns Hopkins Universities, a Nobel Prize winner, Corporate leaders, members of the entertainment industry and other food and agriculture experts. The Chairman of the Commission was Ambassador Sol Linowitz. The Commission’s two years of deliberations, included public hearings, Congressional testimony, consultations with other governments, and issuance of an interim report. During a trip to Europe,Shaughnessy personally presented the Interim Report to Pope John Paul II. (See Commission pictures below.)
Shaughnessy believes that the Commission’s final Report in 1980, which was formally presented to President Carter and the US Congress, became as he describes, “the blueprint for US action on hunger, calling for important Executive and Legislative actions to alleviate international and domestic hunger”. He goes on to note that “subsequent increases in development assistance and domestic hunger programs can be traced to Commission recommendations”. The Commission’s Report also was the first to highlight the major importance of Trade in hunger considerations, and later Commission-inspired legislation, in which Shaughnessy played a critical role, created the Biden-Pell Development Education program.
Following his Commission work, Shaughnessy, already a Level Five in the US senior Executive Service, joined the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service as an Assistant Administrator responsible for USDA food aid and agricultural credit programs valued in the billions of dollars. This included the $150 million PL 480 Title I program and the then two billion dollars in agricultural credit guarantees issued by the Commodity Credit Corporation. In 1983, Shaughnessy left the US government and formed his own company, TCR Services, Inc, serving as President of two trade associations involved in food aid and agricultural export programs. In this capacity he supported the addition of value added food products in food aid programs, in order to increase their availability and nutritional content.
In 1989, Shaughnessy was asked to join the private nongovernmental (NGO) sector and moved to San Diego, first as Executive Director for International programs with World Share, supervising food aid and development programs, and then, for over nine years, as CEO of Project Concern International (PCI). At PCI, he directed international health and nutrition programs, representing PCI in all major health, food aid, and development activities. While at PCI, he traveled widely and through successful fund raising and grant awards, accomplished a fourfold growth of the organization, making it a major entity in worldwide health and nutrition activities. Returning to the Washington Area in 2000, he re-established TCR Services with a full range of NGO and corporate clients and joined World Hunger Education Service. He remains fully engaged in food and nutrition activities, and in the importance of policies and programs related to food aid and the elimination of hunger, especially those that focus broadly on agriculture improvement and specifically on maternal and child health, nutrition, water and sanitation, and the education of girls and women. He is also active in his community and serves on other non-profit Boards.
While serving as Chairman of the World Hunger Education Service, Shaughnessy has helped to maintain the overall education mission of the organization, while, at the same time, leading it into the new millennium. One important change has been the shifting of the print version of the WHES publication “Hunger Notes”, to the Internet. That change has made the Hunger Notes website one of the most visited hunger websites in the world, drawing well over a million visitors each year. “I think that the educational work of the World Hunger Education Service through our Hunger Notes website has contributed substantially to an increased awareness of hunger and what can be done to solve it” Shaughnessy says. “Increased awareness leads to action, and action can stop hunger”. Daniel Shaughnessy has a passion for improving the lives of others by addressing food and hunger problems. He says, “Hunger still demands as much attention today as it has in the past.” “We must continue our work to end it”.
Ferris-Morris is a nutritionist and a board member of World Hunger Education Service.