Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The World Food Prize Recap!

Very brief summaries of our events during World Food Prize Week...

On Sunday, October 14th, we started “World Food Prize Week” with a Des Moines Area Sisters on the Planet potluck. We were able to hear from the 2012 Female Food Hero Susan Godwin from Nigeria about the challenges she and her community has overcome such as changing market demand for products, low prices offered by middlemen buyers, and weak institutional support for smallholder farmers.

Tuesday, October 16th, was the kickoff of the Iowa Hunger Summit. Howard G. Buffet (yes, that Buffet!) was the keynote speaker and spoke to a room of 700 about the fight against world hunger. He said, “The solution is not setting goals and campaigns, the solution is changing our mindsets…When I started, I thought if we could produce more, we could feed more people. I was wrong.”

Wednesday, October 17th was the kickoff of the 2012 Borlaug Dialogue at the Downtown Des Moines Marriott. For three days (well, two and a half), leaders, panelists, and other stakeholders gathered to discuss the variety of ways that partnerships lead to food security and how to set an agenda that feeds the world. Oxfam America hosted a GROW luncheon and we, the Iowa Action Corps, had a great dinner with the Oxfam staff. We spent the day tabling, asking folks to sign-on to our World Food Day Dinners, and sharing a “tea time”.

Thursday, October 18th was another day of the 2012 Borlaug Dialogue and the evening saw the Laureate Award Ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol Building. Watch the recorded version here. Great speeches all around! We were excited to have such honored guests (like the U.N.Secretary General) in Iowa!

Friday, October 19th we traveled to Marshalltown Community College and visited their Rural Entrepreneurship Incubator (REI) and student gardens on campus. We heard about “Harvest from the Heart of Iowa” – an initiative to bring local producers and distributors of Central Iowa together as a resource for the community. That evening, we traveled back to Des Moines to experience the Global Youth Institute’s Oxfam America Hunger Banquet. 300 students from all over the country (and others) gathered to experience our world’s food security problem.

Saturday, October 20th saw the departure of our beloved Action Corps visitors and Oxfam staff. We spoke with many visitors at our table at the Downtown Farmers Market and had a chance to share the GROW Method with them. Farmers markets are so much fun and a great way to show people first-hand how their purchases benefit small farmers. We had a sample platter with fair trade chocolates and locally-grown and chemical free sweet peppers, spinach, and apples.

Whew! Can you really be exhausted and rejuvenated at the same time? (The answer is yes!) So many thanks to our fabulous volunteers for their time and energy over the long week and we have many exciting things coming up for our month of November! Hope you can join us! If you haven't signed our pledge and would like to get involved, email us here. Don't be shy - we'd love to have your support.

Monday, October 15, 2012

You're invited to lunch! RSVP today!

In the prior blog post, we learned a little about Dr. Borlaug and hinted at his ongoing legacy. One element of his spirit lives on in the annual World Food Prize and this year’s 2012 Borlaug Dialogue being held from October 17th through the 19th at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown Hotel.

Under the theme of "Partnerships & Priorities: Transforming the Global Food Security Agenda", stakeholders will explore topics such as: the future landscape of a world living with chronic hunger, agriculture’s role in environmental conservation, integrating nutrition across the spectrum for hungry people, leveraging global financial tools to empower smallholder farmers, minimizing post-harvest waste, and emerging technologies that will continue to shape a food future.

From their website: “With the pressing environmental and demographic challenges facing a hungry world, we have seen a growing push toward international collaboration between institutions, disciplines, public and private sectors and countries. The 2012 Borlaug Dialogue will highlight the role of partnerships and their importance in confronting hunger challenges by driving forward cutting edge research and application at the intersection of science, education and enterprise.” One such institution (you guessed it!), Oxfam America, will have a much larger presence than ever before. And, there’s a great opportunity for you (yes, YOU!) to join us!

“Creating the Menu for a Well-Fed World: Partnership in Action” - October 17th, 2012

Join Oxfam America, the 30 Project, and Chef José Andrés at a luncheon at the opening of the World Food Prize, 11:30am to 12:30pm in the Cedar Rapids and Council Bluffs Rooms, Downtown Marriott. Attendees will be served a “meal with a story” prepared by the culinary staff of the Marriott, and will hear remarks from Oxfam America CEO, Ray Offenheiser; 30 Project President and Founder, Ellen Gustafson; and Chef José Andrés. The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. RSVP required. Click here.

For a complete listing of the keynote presentations, panels, and conversation sessions, click here.

Tomorrow is World Food Day – get excited!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Heisman Trophy or World Food Prize?

Entry #1 in a 3-part series on World Food Day.

In my opinion, the World Food Prize (WFP) is to food as the Heisman Trophy is to collegiate football. Where the Heisman Trophy is awarded to the most outstanding college football player whose “performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence”, the WFP is awarded to an individual whose contribution (also see: performance) has advanced human development in improving (also see: pursuit) the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world (also see: excellent).

I couldn't find a picture of a Quaterback
throwing an ear of corn, so just
imagine the football in this trophy is
actually a watermelon :-)

Before we delve too far into what the WFP is today, let’s take a time-out and learn about where it started: a scientist growing wheat.

In 1944, Dr. Norman E. Borlaug participated in the Rockefeller Foundation's pioneering technical assistance program in Mexico, where he was a research scientist in charge of wheat improvement. For over sixteen years, he worked to solve a series of wheat production problems that were limiting wheat cultivation in Mexico and to help train a whole generation of young Mexican scientists.

The work in Mexico not only had a profound impact on Dr. Borlaug's life and philosophy of agriculture research and development, but also on agricultural production, first in Mexico and later in many parts of the world. It was on the research stations and farmers' fields of Mexico that Dr. Borlaug scored touchdowns by growing wheat varieties with high disease resistance, broad adaptation to growing conditions, and exceedingly high yields.

These new wheat varieties and improved crop management practices transformed agricultural production in Mexico during the 1940's and 1950's and later in Asia and Latin America, sparking what today is known as the "Green Revolution." Because of his achievements to prevent hunger globally, it is said that Dr. Borlaug has "saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived."

Dr. Borlaug, after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for his work, envisioned a prize that would honor those who have made significant and measurable contributions to improving the world's food supply. Beyond recognizing these people for their accomplishments, Borlaug saw “The Prize” as a means of inspiring others. And thus, the World Food Prize was born.

There’s no telling if Dr. Borlaug would have won a Heisman Trophy had he made different career choices, but it can be safely said that this most-valuable player continues to lend his spirit for food justice in the years after his death (a “passing” football/death reference would have been in rather poor taste, sorry!).

Stay tuned for more!