World Food Prize Goes to Grassroots Organizations

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By Amanda Stone

David Beckmann and Jo Luck, World Food Prize 2010 co-Laureates (photo: World Food Prize)

The 2010 World Food Prize co-Laureates were announced in Washington, DC today. Instead of awarding the prize to a scientist (such as last year’s winner, Dr. Gebisa Ejeta of Ethiopia), the $250,000 award will be shared by two individuals who have a long history of working at the grassroots level to help alleviate hunger and poverty: Reverend David Beckmann of Bread for the World and Jo Luck, President of Heifer International.

The ceremony, featuring speeches from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, commenced with the Laureate announcement by Kenneth M. Quinn, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia and now president of the World Food Prize Foundation. “David Beckmann and Jo Luck are receiving the World Food Prize for their landmark achievements in building Bread for the World and Heifer International into two of the world’s foremost grassroots organizations leading the charge to end hunger and poverty for millions of people around the globe,” Quinn said. This is an area of work that hasn’t been recognized before by the World Food Prize, which is often called the Nobel Prize equivalent for food and agriculture.

Many of the event’s speeches focused on the importance of research, science and technology as the solution in fighting the battle against hunger and poverty. Secretary Clinton took the opportunity to announce the new Norman Borlaug Commemorative Research Initiative, a collaborative effort between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The initiative, acting as part of Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, will “leverage the political will and capacity,” said Clinton, and “the best minds” of the world’s largest public research systems to focus on three priorities: advancing the productivity frontier, transforming productive systems, and enhancing nutrition and food safety.

By honoring Bread for the World and Heifer International, the World Food Prize is recognizing a critical effort to mobilize and empower local citizens to end hunger in communities around the world. Beckmann and Bread for the World marshal an annual advocacy effort that urges support for legislation that brings food assistance to hundreds of millions of people.

Heifer International, an important collaborator of Worldwatch’s Nourishing the Planet project, is one of the premier hunger fighting organizations in the world. Heifer International fights hunger and poverty on the ground not by giving food to poor families, but by training farmers in how to raise livestock and practice sustainable agriculture.

The formal award presentation will occur at the 2010 World Food Prize Laureate Award ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol in October, as part of the 2010 Borlaug Dialogue, the theme of which is “Take it to the Farmer: Reaching the World’s Smallholders.” At a side-event of the World Food Prize Symposium, Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin and Nourishing the Planet Project Co-Directors Brian Halweil and Danielle Nierenberg will discuss preliminary findings from the Nourishing the Planet project and preview the yet to be released State of the World 2011: Innovations the Nourish the Planet.

To read more about Nourishing the Planet’s work on the ground with Heifer International and to meet our Advisory Group member Dr. Jim Devries, Executive Vice President of Programs at Heifer International check out: For Poor Households in Rwanda, One Cow Makes A Difference, Meet the Nourishing the Planet Advisory Group: Jim De Vries, and Innovation of the Week: Using Livestock to Rebuild and Preserve Communities

Amanda Stone is a communications intern with Nourishing the Planet.

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