USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) honors those who champion racial justice, equality, and equity in the fight to end hunger. This Black History Month, we’re recognizing the late U.S. Representative Mickey Leland.
George Thomas “Mickey” Leland was born in 1944 in Lubbock, Texas. He attended Texas Southern University, where he became a civil rights activist. In 1971, he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives.
In 1979, Leland was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where he led campaigns dedicated to public health issues and fighting hunger. In Washington, he visited soup kitchens, shelters, and even spent the night on a steam grate, to emphasize the need to address homelessness and hunger. In 1984, he co-founded the House Select Committee on Hunger and led legislative efforts to provide access to fresh foods for women, infants, and children, create comprehensive services for the homeless, and give foreign aid to end hunger.
As an advocate to end hunger globally, Leland introduced the Africa Famine Relief and Recovery Act of 1985, which provided food and relief to sub-Saharan African communities suffering famine. Leland’s efforts increased awareness of the famine and was instrumental in providing relief that saved thousands of lives. Leland traveled to Africa frequently, often bringing along fellow members of Congress to see the relief aid in action.
In 1989, during a visit to Ethiopia, Leland died in a plane crash – but his legacy lives on.
In 1990, the Mickey Leland Memorial Domestic Hunger Relief Act amended the 1977 Food Stamp Act and reauthorized The Emergency Food Assistance Programs. The Mickey Leland Childhood Hunger Relief Act of 1993 went on to reauthorize many FNS programs that still assist millions of Americans. His spirit of service and passion to end hunger continues to inspire FNS and the work the agency does every day.