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CROP Hunger Walk Organizer to Receive 2015 Robert D. Ray Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award
(Des Moines, IA) September 24, 2015 – The World Food Prize announced this morning that the 2015 Robert D. Ray Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award will be presented to the Rev. Russell “Russ” Melby, a long-time Iowa organizer of Church World Service CROP Hunger Walks during the Iowa Hunger Summit on Oct. 13.
From 1984 until his retirement in 2014, Rev. Melby involved almost 500,000 Iowans, who together raised over 12 million dollars to alleviate hunger. A quarter of all funds raised in Iowa are returned to local food pantries, and the remainder reduces global hunger by providing emergency aid during famines and supporting families around the world to transition from dependence to self-sufficiency. CROP Hunger Walks are community celebrations that bring people from many different perspectives and faith traditions together to fight hunger in over 80 communities across Iowa.
“Rev. Melby and CROP Hunger Walks are tremendous proof of the belief, shared by Dr. Borlaug and Governor Ray, that the struggle to end hunger should bring together people of all perspectives and walks of life,” said Amb. Kenneth M. Quinn, President of The World Food Prize. “By working together and building on our great humanitarian heritage, Iowa can eradicate hunger from our state and rise to the greatest challenge in human history – feeding the estimated 9.7 billion people who will share our planet by 2050,” the Ambassador added.
The Iowa SHARES Award has special meaning for Russ, who, in 1985, was invited by the Des Moines Register to represent the Protestant faith community at discussions of a possible fundraiser to alleviate famine in Ethiopia. “I was asked if Church World Service wanted to be involved,” Russ recalls, “and though I was a rookie at the time, I said ‘Yes, we’d love to be’. Then I called our headquarters – we had never done something like this before - and said ‘I hope this is okay!’” This initiative grew into the Iowa CARES program, which, inspired by the Iowa SHARES program, raised over $800,000 in under a year to feed starving refugees in Ethiopia.
An ordained Lutheran minister, Rev. Melby was introduced to the challenges of hunger in 1980 when his bishop encouraged him to attend a Bread for the World meeting of faith leaders in Lincoln, Nebraska. Learning about the realities of families struggling for survival was a “conversion experience”. Previously a concerned bystander, hunger ministry became his lifelong vocation. Russ was inspired to persevere by his “belief that food is the right of everyone, and not merely a privilege, by the personal example of Dr. Norman Borlaug and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the writings of St. Paul, Isaiah, Amos and Micah.” His advice to fellow hunger-fighters: “Learn the meaning of accompaniment, advocate for the rights of hungry people through cultivating relationships with members of Congress, and practice an urgent persistence.”
The third annual Robert D. Ray Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award will be presented to Rev. Melby on Tuesday, October 13, at the Iowa Hunger Summit, a free, grassroots event organized by The World Food Prize to unite all Iowans working to alleviate hunger at home and abroad. More information, an agenda and registration is available at www.iowahungersummit.org.
BACKGROUND: The World Food Prize Foundation established the Robert D. Ray Iowa Shares Humanitarian Award in 2013 in recognition of the exceptional leadership that former Governor Ray demonstrated in dealing with multiple situations affecting refugees in Indochina, and to honor him on his 85th birthday (September 26). In doing so, the award was named after the Iowa SHARES campaign, which the Governor created in 1979 in order to send desperately needed food and medicine to suffering and dying refugees from Cambodia. Iowa SHARES stands for Iowa Sends Help to Aid Refugees and End Starvation.
ABOUT THE WORLD FOOD PRIZE: The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. The Prize was founded in 1986 by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, recipient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize. Since then, the World Food Prize has honored 41 outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions throughout the world. The World Food Prize annually hosts the Borlaug Dialogue international symposium and a variety of youth education programs to help further the discussion on cutting-edge global food security issues and inspire the next generation to end hunger. Press credentials for covering the October World Food Prize Week of events can be requested at www.worldfoodprize.org/press.