The Alliance to End Hunger and FAO Bring Big Names to a Critical Discussion at the World Food Prize

October 22, 2018

Nathan Magrath, Alliance to End Hunger

The World Food Prize and Borlaug Dialogue, held annually in Des Moines, IA around World Food Day (October 16) offer the food security and agricultural communities an opportunity to gather together, celebrate partnerships and innovation, and talk seriously about how we will end hunger around the world.  This year, many discussions took a dire tone as the effects of climate change and conflict are driving up global hunger, and reversing much of the progress made in the last two decades.

This year, the Alliance to End Hunger and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations continued their long-standing collaboration and convened an important discussion on the sidelines of the broader summit. The event – entitled Climate Variability and Conflict: Actions Needed to Ensure Food and Nutrition Security – brought together a number of experts and a room packed with attendees.

Left to Right: Tom Pesek (Senior Liaison Officer, FAO); Dr. Vimlendra Sharan (Director, FAO Liaison Office in Washington); Asma Lateef (Director, Bread for the World Institute); World Food Prize Laureates Dr. Lawrence Haddad and Dr. David Nabarro; Rebecca Middleton (Executive Director, Alliance to End Hunger); Rev. David Beckmann (President, Alliance to End Hunger); Roger Thurow Author and Senior Fellow, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs)

The conversation was teed-up by Vimlendra Sharan, Director of FAO’s Liason Office for North America, who offered stark data and findings from the recent 2018 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report. “We are off track to meeting global hunger and malnutrition targets… Alarm bells have been sounded, and we don’t have the luxury to hit the snooze button,” stated Sharan. “We have the ability, means, and capacity to achieve zero hunger, we only need the political will.” These sentiments were echoed by Amb. Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize.  “How we can feed the 9 billion that will inhabit the world is the single largest challenge that we have to face in our lifetime.” Rev. David Beckmann, President of the Alliance to End Hunger and Bread for the World, brought the issue closer to home – urging attendees in the room to make these issues a political priority within the United States government. “We need a really big change in US politics. Food and nutrition security are just not priorities.”

Featured at the event were the World Food Prize laureates, Dr. Lawrence Haddad and Dr. David Nabarro. The 2018 laureates have both been critical over the years in efforts to tie the science of food security and nutrition to policy, and have collectively taken huge steps in raising nutrition in global discussions, including through the Scaling Up Nutrition movement.

An expert on nutrition and how it relates to global priorities, Dr. Lawrence Haddad spoke on the critical nature of nutrition, and also how the global community must sustainably attain food security targets. “Conflict and climate have massive effects on child stunting and wasting… effects that leave a legacy on children their entire lives,” warned Haddad. However, he added that we need to find a way to nourish the world without simultaneously ruining the environment through actions like cutting down forests, “The food we grow and the food we choose to eat has an impact on our climate… We need food systems that are diverse in crops, locations, and types of organizations involved, in order to adapt to a world of uncertainty.”

Dr. Nabarro, who has a long history of cross-sector work on public health through multilateral institutions, expanded on Dr. Haddad’s remarks, and had much to say about partnerships and nutrition. “We need to have laser-like focus on the issues, and create very large tents that bring in everybody who has an interest: businesses, governments, mayors, civil society, young people, and others,” said Nabarro. He further pointed at the issue of nutrition – including food and food systems – as critical to achieving all of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Roger Thurow, Senior Fellow on Global Food and Agriculture for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and celebrated author of books including The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change and The First 1,000 Days: A Crucial Time for Mothers and Children—and the World, moderated a vibrant and informative discussion between the two laureates. Asma Lateef, Director of the Bread for the World Institute, wrapped up the event by advising actors in the room to work together in a proactive manner to address these dire issues. “We have been working for far too long in silos. We can’t afford to do that anymore and must partner to accelerate progress,” urged Lateef. “We need to prevent hunger rather than react to it.”