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The World Food Prize: Bringing the World to DSM USA

World Food Prize in DSM USA

October 8, 2018

It’s October and time for the annual World Food Prize Week of Events beginning on Sunday, Oct. 14, to once again put Iowa, and especially Greater Des Moines (DSM), center stage as the world celebrates U.N. World Food Day.

With 19 World Food Prize Laureates in attendance, there will be more life-saving achievement assembled in DSM than at any other event celebrating World Food Day around the globe.

Diverse attendees

I take great pride in the fact that the World Food Prize draws an exceptionally diverse array of international participants to DSM for our annual Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium, Global Youth Institute and Laureate Award Ceremony at the state capitol, which has been likened to the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture” and the “Oscars of Agriculture.”

When Bill Gates came to the 2009 World Food Prize here in DSM to launch his multi-billion-dollar initiative to end poverty and chronic hunger, he did so because his staff told him that they “had met a more diverse array of people at the World Food Prize symposium” than at any other conference they had attended anywhere in the world. On other occasions, we have been honored to feature former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and PepsiCo Chairwoman Indra Nooyi alongside small holder farmers and pastoralist herders from Africa and South Asia.

2018 World Food Prize

This year our Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium will feature an amazing array of agri-business leaders including Liam Condon the head of Bayer Crop Science; and Jim Collins the president of Corteva, the newly re-structured combination of DuPont Pioneer and Dow AgroSciences. Where else can you hear both of these global executives in one day, plus five other leaders of dynamic start-up companies that are “disrupting” the agri-science space?

And, in between, you can enjoy listening to our riveting keynote speaker, Her Excellency Mercedes Araoz, the Vice President of Peru and Global Chair of the Food Forever Initiative. It’s no wonder that Sir Gordon Conway has called the World Food Prize symposium the “premier conference in the world on global agriculture.”

Big impact

I take pride in telling the Governor and our legislators that our small, 10-person nonprofit brings more CEOs and senior business executives to Iowa than any other organization. In addition, the World Food Prize has contributed over $100 million to the Iowa economy since John Ruan Sr. first saved the Prize and relocated it to DSM in 1990.

Included in the more than 1,500 people who will attend our week-long series of events are more than 200 high school students and a like number of teachers participating in our Global Youth Institute. Almost 50 percent of the students are from Iowa, with others coming from 27 other U.S. states and territories and 10 foreign countries.

Each year we are excited to host a delegation of students and teachers from the Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School from Hebei province, Iowa’s Chinese sister state. Also participating this year at the Global Youth Institute will be four secondary school students from the Netherlands who took part in the Borlaug Youth Institute at Wageningen University, our first Youth Institute outside the U.S.

In 2018, we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of our acclaimed Borlaug–Ruan International Internship program which each summer sends two dozen high school students on life-changing experiences at renowned international agricultural research centers in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Since 1998, more than 300 of these “BR Interns” have had transformative assignments which led to over 90 percent pursuing majors in science and agriculture in college, and 76 percent entering careers in these same fields after graduation.

Of special note, more than 70 percent of the participants in all of our youth education programs are young women, and about that same percentage come from non-farm backgrounds attending suburban or urban high schools. One statistic of which we are particularly proud is that over $275,000 in scholarships to Iowa State University have been earned by students through participating in World Food Prize education programs.

Join us in DSM

I invite the community to our spectacularly restored Hall of Laureates building on the evenings of Sunday, October 14 at 8:00 p.m. and Tuesday, October 16 at 9 p.m. when we collaborate with the Des Moines Public Art Commission as it presents a dazzling art projection show by the acclaimed artist Oyoram (aka Yorame Mevorach), whose installations have illuminated Dior stores from Europe to Japan. Using the east facade of our building as his palate, Oyoram will transform the building in a stunning display titled Mental Banquet: Painting with Lights. Both “shows” are free and open to the public.

In addition to these two spectacular art shows, other free events during World Food Prize week include:

  • Our open house at the Hall of Laureates on Sunday, Oct. 14 from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • The Iowa Hunger Summit and Hunger Luncheon at the Marriott Hotel on Monday, October 15.
  • The Norman Borlaug Lecture at 8 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 15 at the Memorial Union at Iowa State University given by the 2018 World Food Prize Laureates Drs. Lawrence Haddad and David Nabarro.
  • A public lecture at Grand View University on Thursday, Oct. 18 at 11 a.m. by the renowned author Roger Thurow.

Mark your calendars to watch our 2018 Laureate Award Ceremony on Thursday evening at the State Capitol on Iowa Public Television at 8 p.m. We are proud that this event has highlighted a diverse array of celebrated performing artists as well as little known groups just starting out. Among them are Ray Charles, John Denver, the Tokyo String Quartet and the first-ever DSM appearance by Leslie Odom, Jr.; as well as the Brazilian 2wins whom I discovered in a Rio slum and brought to Iowa in 2006.

As I hope all of the above demonstrates, The World Food Prize Foundation strives to be a “proud citizen” of our state and our community, endeavoring through all that we do to be a beacon calling attention to Iowa and DSM as the “Hunger-Fighting Capital of America and the World.”

Through the Global DSM initiative, the Greater Des Moines Partnership works to establish Greater Des Moines (DSM) as a global community by bolstering global trade and foreign investments and leveraging international talent.

Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn

Following 32 years as an American diplomat, including serving as U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, in 2000 Ken Quinn became president of the World Food Prize Foundation. Over 20 years he endeavored to fulfill the vision of Dr. Norman Borlaug and John Ruan Sr. that it could become the "Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture."