Gene White

A true leader, mentor, and friend who inspired and touched the lives of many across continents and generations.

If you have memories of Gene that you would like to share with the GCNF Community, please share them with us at info@gcnf.org.

Today the world lost one of anti-hunger’s and child welfare’s most fierce advocates, Gene White. Gene dedicated her life to well-being of children and worked passionately over many decades to improve their lives around the world. Her legacy will live on.

Secretary Tom Vilsack, US Department of Agriculutre

Gene’s passing is very sad news but at the same time, I know we’re all grateful for the time we had with her and the way she influenced and shaped our lives and those of children and families across the globe. Truly an inspiring presence that will always live in her words and deeds.

Dr. Ronald Kleinman, GCNF Board President

What a wonderful mentor and even better friend she was to me. I’ll value her warm, kind, loving friendship forever. Our loss is definitely the world’s loss and I’ll probably always find myself saying, “what would Gene do?”. Wishing you all the best as we all share our wonderful memories as well as sorrows.

Janey Thornton, GCNF Board Member

A long life well lived. Gene's dedication to the welfare of children was never ending. Many fond memories on both the domestic and international levels working with Gene promoting school nutrition programs. She will be missed but the benefits of her efforts will continue for the years to come.

Stan Garnett, GCNF Honorary Advisor

Gene’s dedication and passion for children around the world, GCNF, and mentor/role model to nutrition professionals is an admirable legacy. She will be their beacon as they strive to emulate her causes. She had a wonderful life and is now with Bill. May she rest in peace and always remain in our hearts.

Penny McConnell, GCNF Board Member

She will always be fondly remembered as of one of the school nutrition programs’ legends and true leaders. In 1995 she moved to Alexandria, VA to help fight off the block grant threat facing our programs and I had the honor of getting to know and work with her. May Gene rest in peace.

Patti Montague, FASAE, CAE- CEO, School Nutrition Association

Gene White passed away on June 23, 2021 in Oak Harbor, Washington. She was 99 years old. It was 4 weeks ago today and I’m still grieving. I’ll be grieving for a while. I met Gene in 2014 at my interview for the Global Child Nutrition Foundation. Gene asked about my reasons for wanting to work there- and then, very candidly, shared that she earnestly believed that if every child around the globe had access to nutritious food and an education, there would be world peace. She seemed self-conscious that her answer was cliché, but she spoke with quiet determination. Over the next 5 years I was privileged to see not only her commitment to achieving this goal but its simple truth. Gene inspired and rallied people to this cause from all over the world, people from different countries, cultures, languages. My friend Christiani Buani put it best: she is an angel. Gene dedicated her entire life to achieving this dream- and now I too earnestly believe that it is, as Gene put it, a possible dream. I last saw Gene on March 1, 2020. At first she had trouble remembering who I was- but then it clicked and we reminisced about all of the good times together and also discussed the barriers to children having access to nutritious food in school, and some possible solutions. She remained dedicated to the very end. A life well-lived. As we parted ways, Gene told me she loved me- I love you too, Gene. Thank you for all you’ve given me and the world.

Will McMahan

Gene touched so many people's lives -- her curiosity, conviction, and compassion serve as a role model for me.

Barbara Noseworthy, GCNF Board Member

Very sad news. But Gene will continue to inspire us all - what a legacy she leaves.

Trish Ault, GCNF Board Member

My heart is broken. I am so grateful I knew Gene and had her in my life.

Michele Fite, GCNF Board Member

I first met Gene some 50 years ago when I was fresh out of school and new to WV Child Nutrition. She and Faith Gravenmier took me under their wings and allowed me to grow in my profession at the time. She was a remarkable woman, so kind and so giving. Her knowledge of Child Nutrition, her dedication to the programs, and her influence on politicians (and others) will never be surpassed. She was a mentor to many. She was a friend to all. And she was a lady who never let obstacles change her personality. On one of her trips to WV she told me of the black bear family she saw near a pond off the interstate and I had to tell her the bears were wooden cutouts. She definitely meant a lot to me and I’ll never forget her.

Martha Hill

Gene was humanity at its best. I will miss her greatly and be forever grateful for her abundant gifts she shared so generously. She was a big thinker whose conviction made a difference for millions of children around the world. Even in death, Gene will continue to inspire and guide our work toward her bold vision. I look forward to many opportunities to honor Gene in the weeks and months ahead.

Kate Houston, GCNF Board Member

My condolences on the passing on to glory of our revered champion of Child Nutrition-Gene White. She lived a life that brought succor to School Children regarding the provision of adequate nutrition. She will be fondly remembered. May her soul rest in perfect peace.

Olubunmi Ayoola Retired Director & State Program Officer, Osun State School Feeding Program. Osun State, Nigeria.

We are all so sad to hear of Gene’s passing, and I would like to extend my deepest condolences on behalf of our chairperson, Ambassador Sheila Sisulu, the entire Board of Trustees, management and staff of Tiger Brands Foundation. Gene White was a respected individual in the global school nutrition sector and she will be sadly missed by all of us who knew and worked with her. Gene set the standard for the industry. Her many years of solid dedication to ensure that school children has access to a nutritious meal was admirable. Her discipline and devotion to ethics and integrity made her an icon. Her contagious energy and drive impressed me most, and I always looked forward to seeing her at the annual GCNF conferences. Please accept my deepest sympathies and those of the entire Tiger Brands Foundation family at this sorrowful time. I look forward to many opportunities to honor Gene in the weeks and months ahead.

Eugene Absolom, Director, Tiger Brands Foundation

Dear All, What a loss for so many. What a gift for those who knew her. She had a unique capacity of empowering people with love. She made them feel seen, encouraged them, and in doing so equipped them to fully use their talents to serve and love others. She made people feel special. I once saw a big crowd of people gathered around someone at a conference (not Gcnf) and wondered what celebrity they were gathering around. It was Gene. People needed to be around her glow to be reminded that change was possible in the world, they could be part of it, and Gene believed in them. She had already made the world better! Gene believing in you really meant a lot. I’m so grateful to have known her and to have been encouraged and counseled by her. Thank you Arlene (and Lillian and Helen) for all the ways you’ve shown up for Gene in the last few years especially. So grateful for your love and service to her. Pressing onward,

Alesha Black

School children around the globe have lost a champion. Over the years since the beginning of the GCNF, millions of children have become healthier because of the vision, leadership, and determination of our dear friend Gene. And, as she taught me, those children are also better educated because it’s the school meals that bring them to school. And we all have lost a dear colleague. On a personal note, Gene became a mentor and encouraged me to get involved in SNA’s professional organization. Watching Gene at the numerous forums and conferences I attended, it was so apparent how many held her in awe and the respect she garnered was secondary to none. Our relationship turned into a special friendship and I treasure the numerous visits I had with her. Those memories will sustain me in this time of sadness. Rest in peace my friend.

Donna Wittrock

What a journey she has had, and what a legacy she has left behind ! May we all live our lives as she did. Prayers and Love to the family and friends.

Lloyd Le Page, GCNF Honorary Advisor

This is very sad news. She is an inspiration to so many of us. If we could achieve only half of what she achieved in our lifetimes….. May she rest in peace and now be with her husband.

Carnen Burbano, Director of the World Food Programme’s School Feeding Division

Gene was more rare than one in a billion. Only a very few can match her contribution to humanity. Gene also had a profound impact on my life personally, talking me into leaving the Hill (with Jo Martin) and going to work for SNA (then ASFSA.) We took a boat tour of San Francisco Bay to discuss how to retain federal reimbursement for the 'paying child.' When we get Universal School Meals, it should be dedicated to Gene's memory.

Marshall Matz, GCNF Honorary Advisor

Karen Edwards let me know about the passing of Gene and I’d also like to express my condolences to both of you and your team. It’s hard to say goodbye to someone who means so much. Gene’s leadership for global child nutrition was an incredible inspiration. She touched a countless number of lives directly through her work and indirectly through her example. While I never had the opportunity to meet Gene, her legacy shines as a model and reminder for all to continue as champions for nutritious and affordable school meals for all of the world’s children.

Liz Hare, Executive Director, World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH)

As I read the tributes to Gene,I am reminded once again at what a giant of a person this small in stature woman was. It reminds me of so many times where Gene quietly - yet determinedly moved us forward in our efforts to provide nutritious food to the children here in the US as well as around the world. In 1990, SNA (formerly ASFSA) held its 5 year long range planning conference. Because of reduced funding for child nutrition programs, many school districts had "gone off the rails" by selling or giving away non-nutritious foods to their students in order to keep programs afloat financially. During the several day meeting, Gene led her planning group which brought us back to our true purpose with powerful presentations and a new term "nutrition integrity". This concept became our north star and focused us on being "nutrition" programs rather than "feeding" programs. It changed us. Thank you, Gene White, for guiding us to our true purpose - both in the US and globally. We love you. We miss you.

Marilyn Hurt, SNA Past President

Thank you, Gene

Thank for being you. When you opened the door of your house to me seven years ago, you ushered me into a way of being that has kept inspiring me ever since. You had travelled to Seattle in the morning to do work for the Global Child Nutrition Foundation, and now, back home on your beloved Whidbey, you were spending the afternoon to share your reflections about life and leadership for a project I was working on. I thought we’d be done in 90 minutes, instead, our visit turned into an intense four-hour interview. You told part of your story, including a reflection on having only animal crackers to share with malnourished children you met in a village in Tunisia.

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Having just read the very sad news about Gene no longer being with us, I wanted to write to extend my most heartfelt sympathy to you both, and through you to the entire GCNF family. I feel so very fortunate to have met and interacted with Gene and to have experienced on multiple occasions the inspiration she exuded to uplift children around the world. Together with Senator George McGovern, Gene will always have a rarefied place in the pantheon of humanitarian legends and in my heart.

Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, The World Food Prize

It is truly a challenge to sum up in a few sentences the qualities that made Gene White the personification of a beloved leader. She was a friend to every one she met, willing to share the history of school feeding programs in the U.S. and to excite others about global possibilities for feeding children at school. It was my good fortune to share a room with Gene when a group from our association (ASFSA) toured South Africa and saw the beginning of efforts to provide meals at school. She was seeing a pathway for a program to benefit all children. Gene’s very “quotable” sense of humor, her wisdom and her passion for improving the health and education of all children formed the basis for a life of service. I echo the beautiful tributes contained in these messages. They are evidence of the love and respect in which we will always remember her.

Phyllis Griffith

It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I learned the passing of Gene White this past June 23rd. Eight years ago I had the privilege to meet Gene, right away she made me realize how much more I needed to learn in my engagement towards children and that no matter our age we have the responsibility to try to make this world better. I last saw her three years ago at the Global Child Nutrition Forum in Tunisia and let me tell you that even at 97 she was still going strong fighting to ensure all children from around the world, regardless of their circumstances, had the nutrition and care they needed to thrive. May you rest in peace you will be missed. All my RESPECT…. GENE. Good on you and be safe!

Daniel Germain, Founder President, Breakfast Club of Canada

It is with deep sadness that I write my tribute message to Gene this morning! We imagined she is almost immortal because she has been so present in our lives, in the history of school feeding through the globe! So many school children have had a better future thanks to her inspiring commitment ... I hoped that she would be celebrated around the world on the occasion of her hundredth anniversary ... but alas! Gene, rest in peace, we will never forget you.

Armelle Korogone, WFP Benin

Dear Arlene and everyone at GCNF, We are saddened by the passing of Gene but have been inspired by her vision, enthusiasm, and determination to make the world a better place through school meal programs. We are blessed to have known Gene and blessed again by her generosity and friendship. Please accept this donation to help further the work that you do and Gene helped to start.

Loren and Patty Imes

Please know that you and everyone at GCNF have my deep condolences regarding the passing of Gene White. She had quite a life, achieved great things in establishing GCNF and raising the global consciousness about the importance of school feeding. In passing she is fortunate that she leaves GCNF in the superbly capable hands of you and your team to build on her own accomplishments. Sadly & fondly,

Ambassador Christopher Goldthwait

I think of Gene as an Astronaut for Humanity. I thought of her with awe and thanks always, and will continue to do so. Honoring Gene and you and GCNF,

Charlton Price

I want to join you in celebrating the life and legacy of the world’s finest and feistiest hunger fighter. I will never forget traveling to Ghana with Gene in 2013. She inspired our whole team with her wisdom and commitment and priceless ability to make everyone laugh. Gene’s determined smile and the light in her eyes pulled everyone forward. All things were possible with Gene in the campaign for nutritious school meals! I particularly treasured our 4-H Club visit where Gene shared her own stories as a 4-H member. She recited the 4-H pledge from memory. Despite being 91, Gene led the charge through the field to see the 4-H club’s school garden and celebrated that they were growing healthy carrots. I think we will always be challenged to keep up with Gene, but I am forever grateful that the amazing Gene White blazed the trail.

Karen Edwards

Sad to read about Gene - she was one of a kind and a gentle soul that truly cared about feeding children. God blessed all of us with her friendship and know she is with her husband.

Karen Johnson

Gene was a child nutrition champion, mentor and friend. Her legacy will live on in our Association, World and hearts ♥️ We are all better for knowing her. Gently rest now, Gene.

Gaye Lynn MacDonald

Our deepest condolences from our side here in West Africa - Sierra Leone. Gene will be missed for her tremendous contributions towards improving the lives of children through the GCNF activities. Be consoled and let us pray for her soul and a good replacement. Rip Gene. You have done your part!! Thank you in heaven. Stay blessed and safe.

Emily Gogra, Deputy Minister, Sierra Leone

Josée and I wanted to extend our sincere condolences to you especially and your team. She was an extraordinary woman and trailblazer. She left an amazing legacy.

Lisa Clowery and Josée Desjardins, Breakfast Club of Canada

We are saddened to hear about Gene’s passing. May she rest in peace. A true leader, mentor and friend who inspired and touched the lives of many across continents and generations. « Onward », as she would say.

Alice Martin-Daihirou

Dear Arlene and friends of Gene It has been moving to read the many tributes to Gene that have flowed from your announcement that Gene has passed on to a better place. And at the German policies-against-hunger meeting on Friday it was even more immediate to hear the loving words of Daniel, and the homage from Carmen of the grandmother of school feeding. So many of our lives were touched and changed by Gene, and so many, many children in the past and in the future will grow to be more fulfilled people because of what she brought to the world. The finality of death brings sadness, but the good that Gene brought into the world is a joy to us all.

Dr. Donald A. P. Bundy, Director of the Global Research Consortium for School Health and Nutrition

Gene was the leading lady of parts of the last two centuries.

Ed Cooney and Lynn Parker

Thanks for sharing this sad news. Praying for her beautiful soul even as we celebrate her legacy and impact on many lives.

Daniel Mumuni

It was my privilege to be Gene White's physician for over 25 years. She had an inherent "special sauce" that she spread over everyone she interacted with. It served her well and all of us who were blessed to know her. It was used to overcome significant illnesses, recover from many surgeries, convince many government officials that they needed significant change, and it changed for the better the lives of those of us who knew her well. Indeed, may she rest in peace!!

Dr. John Kirkpatrick

Gene was a woman who cared about everyone around the world. She left a great footprint from the past and into the future caring for the needs of others. She impacted SNA future leaders and people all around the globe and is leaving a great lasting legacy for all of us. It was a blessing to be able to know her.

Gay Anderson, SNS, Child Nutrition Directopr, Sioux Falls Public Schools

 I have not replied to this message because it is hard to sum up Gene! She is an icon in our industry. We have all benefited from her devotion. She was so wise, persistent and devoted! I listed her along with Josephine Martin and Gertrude Applebaum as the biggest influences on our industry in the last 75 years! Thank you to these leaders and many others who have advanced our mission to feed children!

Julia Bauscher

We at JAM join you as GCNF to remember and celebrate the life of Gene White. We are in awe of the amazing contribution she made to the cause of the right of children to nutrition. Please accept our condolences - we will keep all at GCNF in our thoughts and in our prayers.

David Brown, JAM International

My deepest condolences to you and the GCNF family. Gene's love, commitment, and ethos will continue to inspire me and I aspire to live a life of service as rich and loving as hers.

Jennifer Shin

Mixed feelings. Sad she is not here anymore among us. Very happy because I had the opportunity to learn with her. She accomplished her mission. We need, in her memory, never give up with ours. Love you Gene!

Daniel Balaban, Director of UN/WFP Centre of Excellence Against Hunger in Brasília

She was such an inspiring and remarkable leader with such passion, dedicating her life’s work to do so much good for the world. She always asked how everyone was doing, family, friends. So genuine and caring. She will be missed and I will cherish the very fond memories of her. Truly an inspiration and role model for all that will be everlasting.

Rafael Fabrega, GCNF Board Member

What a remarkable lady! I am sure all of us have many fond memories of Gene. She welcomed me (as a first-time Industry attendee in Durango) and made me feel so at ease and part of SNA. She was a mentor and teacher for most, if not all, of us. For those of us lucky enough to spend time on Whidbey Island for a Past President reunion....what a magical time. Gene made so many contributions to SNA and child nutrition programs world-wide. I am sure there will be information on memorial suggestions. In the meantime, I know we will all be saying words of thanks for her life-long leadership and commitment.

Ruth Jonen

Gene exemplified what a dedicated public servant can do. She changed the lives of countless children around the world through her passion, dedication and relentless effort in support of school feeding. She is a hero.

Cindy Long, USDA

It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing away of our gentle-talking and concerned mother, Gene White, from my dear colleague, Yibo Wood. I cannot imagine that she is really gone but these are some of the realities of this life. I pray that the almighty gives her family the strength to bear the loss. I cannot imagine what they are going through now, when we friends are indeed very sad. May the almighty give her the perfect peace she deserves. Her legacy will live on, as you have rightly indicated in your mail. Please, our condolences to the family.

Andy Chi Tembon, World Bank

 My heart is heavy hearing of Gene’s passing. I was always so mesmerized everytime I heard her provide historical perspective at LAC conferences. I feel so blessed to have worked with Gene on numerous occasions but especially when Corrine Lavato and I represented SNA at the first Encuentro to Departments of Education in South America in Medellin, Columbia. She prepared me and Corrine from New Mexico to share information on US school meal program policy at this conference. She shared so much wisdom and experiences of her work globally. Her incite and guidance on this trip laid groundwork for expanding SNA connection with other countries globally and her contributions to Global Child Nutrition Foundation. She’s left such a legacy and will never be forgotten. With much love and Respect, May she Rest In Eternal Peace!💕🙏🏻

Dora Rivas

I appreciated very much the cooperation with Gene over the years and I learnt a lot from her. I admired her commitment to support children all over the world, her knowledge and continuous hard work to promote school feeding and child nutrition. We also had fantastic times together during conferences and board meetings. May she rest in peace, and all the best for the continuation of her good work.

Ulla Holm, Former GCNF Board Member

I was so sorry to hear of Gene’s passing - her commitment to child nutrition has been an inspiration worldwide and serves as a model for the work of Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign. The simple idea that every child should have access to food, and that hunger in many cases is a problem of political will rather than limited resources, has changed and continues to change our world for the better. I remember meeting Gene when she came to our offices for the first time to talk about the forum and convinced me to go the year it was held in Cape Verde – it was a wonderful experience and one that helped to guide our thinking around global school meals for years to come. Gene's lifelong commitment to making sure kids have the food they need was transformative and provides a roadmap for those of us who would carry on this work into the future - a powerful legacy indeed. Sending my deepest condolences to each of you and to all who benefitted from knowing Gene.

Debbie Shore, Co-Founder, Share Our Strength

We lost a true hero but her impact and legacy lives on through GCNF and its continued impact on school feeding.

Paul Alberghine

Gene was a great soul and was totally committed to child nutrition...

Nancy Rice

I am so sorry. I had not heard the news. The world has lost a grand and beautiful force and I know you and Lillian have lost a dear friend. My love to you two and to all who knew and loved her.

Siobhan Canty

I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Gene. Her wisdom and experience inspired all of us. She has left a legacy and will never be forgotten. Please send my deepest condolences to her family and friends.

Nadia Goodman