US leadership needed to end world hunger

Des Moines, Iowa, 23 February 2021—24 World Food Prize Laureates from across the globe, dedicated to driving change in food systems, are calling on the leadership of the United States Administration to help end world hunger. The World Food Prize Laureates submitted an open letter to the President of the United States of America, Joseph R. Biden Jr., calling on the new Biden-Harris administration to help achieve the global goals on food.

“Dr. Norman Borlaug envisioned a prize to elevate the innovations that would inspire current and future leaders to increase the quality, quantity and availability of food for everyone,” said Barbara Stinson, President of the World Food Prize Foundation. “At this critical juncture in the US and globally, the Laureates’ call to leverage funding, alliances and leadership on behalf of transforming food systems is timely, focused on the urgency of US action to achieve zero hunger by 2030.”

Group of few happy girls and a boy playing with the thatching grass in a village in Botswana. © Shutterstock / Lucien Coman

2018 World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director of GAIN, said, “Our food systems are moving us in the wrong directions: hunger levels are rising, child undernutrition levels are at severe risk of rising, obesity is increasing, we are off track to meet climate targets, biodiversity is being squandered, not enough decent jobs are being created and community resilience is being undermined. But this moment in time has created an opportunity for everyone to think and act differently: with ambition, with solidarity and with lasting impact.”

2016 World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Jan Low, Principal Scientist at the CGIAR’s International Potato Center: “The world has demonstrated that we can make inroads into reducing malnutrition when and where there is the political will to act. Historically, bipartisan commitment to ending hunger has been the cornerstone of US food policy overseas. US leadership to build a more nourishing global food system has never been more critical than at this challenging time. Ensuring access to nutritious foods is an essential step for “building back better”.

Pre-COVID-19, hunger was on the rise. In 2017, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that 3 billion people could not afford a healthy diet. While the world reduced absolute poverty from 2 billion people in 1990 to 800 million people before the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) approximates that more than 1 billion people will live in extreme poverty by 2030.

The strong commitment of the United States can significantly impact achieving the goal of zero hunger by 2030. The World Food Prize Laureates have highlighted three steps:

  1. Cast a wide-angle lens on our food systems that produce, distribute, process, market, and prepare food. Food systems intertwine hunger, nutrition, food safety, biodiversity, resource use, climate emissions, jobs and livelihoods, as well as the resilience of families, communities, and economies. We know that improvements in food systems create huge benefits in all of these critical areas.
  2. Strengthen and leverage our alliances to raise ambitions and find game changers for food. The COVID era is teaching us that the unimaginable is attainable, the unthinkable is in fact doable: vaccines in under a year; unprecedented economic relief packages; doing global business from home; digitised commerce even in the most fragile settings; unprecedented community solidarity; and increasing the number of people in food safety net programmes from 0.6 billion to 2 billion. The returns for imagination and boldness have never been greater.
  3. Provide leadership for high impact. In September 2021, the UN Secretary-General will lead a Food Systems Summit to mobilize global action on hunger. The Summit involves civil society, business, and development agencies – everyone – to work with governments. It is the People’s Summit, and its aim is action, not declaration. In addition, the United Nations named 2021 the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables to catalyze action on nutrition and health. The Nutrition for Growth Summit will be hosted in Tokyo in December this year to address deepening food insecurity and malnutrition globally, and the impacts of COVID-19 on donor aid and nutrition targets.
Indian mother and child sit in front of a colourful house. They are part of GAIN’s work on improvement of children’s diets in India. © GAIN / Sharbendu De

The World Food Prize Laureates are calling on the Administration of President Biden to:

  1. Re-establish American global leadership to end hunger,
  2. Play a leadership role in the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit and other global initiatives,
  3. Refresh US evidence-based policy and investment to achieve the goal of ending hunger, and
  4. Expand the highly successful USAID Feed the Future initiative and Innovation Labs to reach more countries.

Every year, the World Food Prize has been privileged to announce a Laureate recognized for their inspiring work in improving access to, quality of, or amounts of food globally.

List of World Food Prize Laureate signatories calling for US action

  1. Rattan Lal, Director, OSU Carbon Management & Sequestration Center, 2020 Laureate
  2. Simon Groot, Founder, East-West Seed, 2019 Laureate
  3. Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, 2018 Laureate
  4. David Nabarro, Strategic Director, 4SD, 2018 Laureate
  5. Akinwumi A. Adesina, President, African Development Bank, 2017 Laureate
  6. Maria Andrade, Principal Scientist, Sweetpotato Breeder, International Potato Center (CIP), 2016 Laureate
  7. Howarth Bouis, Founding Director, HarvestPlus, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) 2016 Laureate
  8. Jan Low, Principal Scientist, International Potato Center (CIP), 2016 Laureate
  9. Robert Mwanga, Sweetpotato Breeder, International Potato Center (CIP), 2016 Laureate
  10. Mary-Dell Chilton, Distinguished Science Fellow, Syngenta, 2013 Laureate
  11. Robert T. Fraley, Former Executive Vice President & CTO, Monsanto, 2013 Laureate
  12. David Beckman, President Emeritus, Bread for the World, 2010 Laureate
  13. Jo Luck, Former President, Heifer International, 2010 Laureate
  14. Gebisa Ejeta, Director, Purdue Center for Global Food Security, 2009 Laureate
  15. Robert J. Dole, Former US Senator, 2008 Laureate
  16. Philip Nelson, Professor Emeritus, Purdue University, 2007 Laureate
  17. Edson Lobato, Former Technical Director, Embrapa Cerrados, 2006 Laureate
  18. Alysson Paolinelli, Executive President, Abramiho, 2006 Laureate
  19. Modadugu V. Gupta, Senior Research Fellow, WorldFish, 2005 Laureate
  20. Pedro Sanchez, Professor, Tropical Soils, University of Florida, 2002 Laureate
  21. Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University, 2001 Laureate
  22. Gurdev Khush, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Davis, 1996 Laureate
  23. Hans R. Herren, President, Millennium Institute & Biovision Foundation, 1995 Laureate
  24. Muhammad Yunus, Chairman, Yunus Centre, 1994 Laureate



About World Food Prize

The World Food Prize Foundation elevates innovations and inspires action to sustainably increase the quality, quantity and availability of food for all. The Foundation supports this through a variety of innovative programs year-round including by: recognizing and rewarding individuals making exceptional achievements in addressing food security; convening global leaders in Des Moines each year to address the latest issues and innovations in food and agriculture; inspiring, recognizing and empowering students around the world by providing educational and professional experiences on pressing food security and agriculture issues; and addressing Iowa’s challenges and successes in fighting hunger and poverty.


About the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) is a Swiss-based foundation launched at the UN in 2002 to tackle the human suffering caused by malnutrition. Working with both governments and businesses, we aim to transform food systems so that they deliver more nutritious food for all people, especially the most vulnerable. @GAINalliance

About the International Potato Center (CIP)

CIP is a CGIAR research center with a focus on potato, sweetpotato and Andean roots and tubers. It delivers innovative science-based solutions to enhance access to affordable nutritious food, foster inclusive sustainable business and employment growth, and drive the climate resilience of root and tuber agri-food systems. Headquartered in Lima, Peru, CIP has a research presence in more than 20 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food-secure future. Its science is carried out by 15 research centers in close collaboration with hundreds of partners across the globe.


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