The World Food Prize Foundation

About the Foundation

The World Food Prize Foundation's mission is to elevate innovations and inspire action to sustainably increase the quality, quantity and availability of food for all.  

The Foundation supports this mission through programs:

  • Recognizing and rewarding individuals making exception 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 and recognizing exceptional students in Iowa, in the U.S. and around the world by providing educational and professional experiences on pressing food security and agriculture; and
  • Addressing Iowa's challenges and successes in fighting hunger and poverty through the Iowa Hunger Summit and Directory.

The World Food Prize is the foremost international honor recognizing -- without regard to race, religion, nationality, or political beliefs -- the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

The $250,000 annual award recognizes contributions in any field involved in the world food supply including, but not limited to: plant, animal and soil science; food science and technology; nutrition; rural development; marketing; food processing and packaging; water and the environment; natural resource conservation; physical infrastructure; transportation, storage and distribution; special or extraordinary feeding programs; social organization and poverty elimination; economics and finance; policy analysis; and public advocacy. 

The World Food Prize emphasizes the importance of a nutritious and sustainable food supply for all people. By honoring those who have worked successfully toward this goal, The Prize calls attention to what has been done to improve global food security and to what can be accomplished in the future.

Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work in global agriculture, 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 personal accomplishments, Borlaug saw The Prize as a means of establishing role models who would inspire others. His vision was realized when The World Food Prize was created in 1986 with sponsorship by General Foods Corporation.

Since then, the World Food Prize has honored outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity, or availability of food throughout the world. Laureates have been recognized from countries around the world, including Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Cape Verde, China, Cuba, Denmark, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Israel, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, Uganda, United Kingdom, the United Nations and the United States.

The name of the new Laureate(s) is/are made public in a special ceremony each spring at the US State Department in Washington DC, with the Secretary of State presiding. The first Laureate Announcement Ceremony was held in 2004 with Secretary Colin Powell presiding. 

The Prize is presented each October on or around UN World Food Day (October 16) in a pomp-filled ceremony in the magnificent Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines. In addition to the cash award, the Laureate receives a sculpture designed by the noted artist and designer, Saul Bass. 

The World Food Prize has become a week-long set of events drawing over 1,000 participants from over 50 countries. In addition to the Laureate Award Ceremony, the World Food Prize series of events include the: Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium; Global Youth Institute for high school students; Iowa Hunger Summit; Laureate Lecture Series; and presentation of the Dr. Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation. 

The World Food Prize was initially sponsored by businessman and philanthropist John Ruan Sr. with support from the Governor and State Legislature of Iowa. Mr. Ruan stepped forward to endow The Prize and relocate it to Des Moines in 1990 when its first sponsor withdrew. Without Mr. Ruan's generosity, the Prize and Dr. Borlaug's vision could not have continued. Today, there are over 80 companies, foundations and individuals who are donors to the Foundation. In 2001 John Ruan's son, John Ruan III, succeeded his father as chairman of the World Food Prize. The Foundation's president is Barbara Stinson. A distinguished international Council of Advisors provides guidance and support.

The Sculpture

The World Food Prize sculpture was created by world-renowned designer Saul Bass. Its basic, handsome design has stood as a symbol of The World Food Prize since its founding.

As Dr. Norman E. Borlaug’s dreams of The Prize materialized in 1986, its founding organizers sought a distinctive, commemorative piece to bestow upon World Food Prize Laureates.

A.S. "Al" Clausi, who served as the first Chairman of the World Food Prize Council of Advisors, was familiar with the work of designer Saul Bass. The artist had been hired to design a new logo and other pieces for the General Foods Company, where Clausi served as Senior Vice President of Research and Development.

In addition to his work as a graphic designer, Bass had made a name for himself as a master of film title design. He designed movie posters and title tracks for noted directors including Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger and Martin Scorsese.

Confident with his reputation and pleased with the work he had done for General Foods, Clausi contacted Bass to design a commemorative piece for the fledging World Food Prize. Bass’ only direction was to incorporate a bowl into his concept.

Several months later Bass presented the founding members of The World Food Prize with an earth-colored stone bowl made of alabaster, resting on a slate base, with a pewter sphere sitting in its center. From the sphere a wedge was removed, and the exposed interior was cut with a leaf design.

The piece was exactly what The World Food Prize founders had hoped for. They rationalized that the sphere symbolized the world; the leaf design, its food; and the bowl, the nourishment of its people. Thus, the piece was a fitting commemoration for the work of the World Food Prize Laureates.

Today, each World Food Prize Laureate receives a hand-crafted sculpture meticulously crafted to Bass' original design in addition to a cash prize. Although the first three sculptures were given in wicker baskets lined with red satin in accordance with the original design, this was later seen as unnecessary. Today the award sculptures are presented free of adornment.

Although Bass passed away in 1996, his concept for The World Food Prize will undoubtedly endure for generations.

Read more about artist Saul Bass.

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