Jo Luck co-winner of prestigious World Food Prize

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (June 16, 2010) – Heifer International President Jo Luck today was named co-recipient of The World Food Prize—only the third woman to be so honored—for her work through Heifer to ensure availability and sustainability of food to people in need around the world.

She shares the prestigious 2010 prize with David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and one of the foremost U.S. advocates for hungry people. Each will receive a World Food Prize sculpture, a framed Laureate Certificate and will share the $250,000 award.

The award will be presented Oct. 14, at the state Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa, as part of the 2010 Borlaug Dialogue, the theme of which is "Take it to the Farmers: Reaching the World's Smallholders."

“Jo Luck and David Beckmann are receiving the 2010 World Food Prize for their landmark achievements in building Bread for the World and Heifer International into two of the world’s foremost grassroots organizations leading the charge to end hunger and poverty for millions of people around the globe,” according to the World Food Prize citation.

“In honoring Jo Luck and David Beckmann, the World Food Prize recognizes the critical efforts of NGOs in mobilizing and empowering grassroots citizens to end hunger in communities around the world.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participated in the announcement of the World Food Prize winners in a ceremony today in Washington, D.C., at the U.S. State Department. The prize is the foremost international award, recognizing individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

“I cannot begin to adequately express what this award means to me,” said Jo Luck. “This is the absolute pinnacle of my professional life. And to share this prize with David (Beckmann), a personal friend for whom I have great respect, is an added honor.”

“Although this is a personal recognition, it would not have been possible without the efforts of the men and women who have shepherded Heifer International for more than 65 years, and the millions of families who have been helped and today continue to help others through Heifer’s unique requirement that each beneficiary must Pass on the Gift to others, thus becoming a donor themselves. This provides the dignity they so richly deserve.

“World Food Prize founder Dr. Norman Borlaug believed we had the collective duty and knowledge to eradicate hunger worldwide,” said Sec. Vilsack. “David Beckmann and Jo Luck’s efforts to bring hundreds of thousands of global citizens into the battle against hunger and poverty domestically and around the globe are shining examples of his vision in action.”

The October World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony rivals that of the Nobel Prize, drawing more than 800 people from more than 65 countries.

For more than 20 years, Jo Luck helped lead Heifer, becoming president and chief executive officer in 1992. Under her lead, Heifer grew from a $7 million budget to more than $130 million, and she helped expand programs and projects into numerous countries worldwide. Since 1944, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally-sound agricultural training to more than 12 million families—62 million men, women and children—in more than 125 countries.

Through Heifer’s signature Passing on the Gift, families who receive living gifts of livestock, seeds, trees and training agree to pass on the gift of the first born female offspring, crops and training to another family, multiplying the benefit and helping raise entire communities.

The World Food Prize recognizes—without regard to race, religion, nationality or political beliefs—individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. The prize recognizes contributions in any field in the world food supply—food and agriculture, science and technology, manufacturing, marketing, nutrition, economics, poverty alleviation, political leadership and the social sciences.

The 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 World Food Prize calls attention to what has been done to improve global food security and to what can be accomplished in the future.

“When I am asked, ‘What about the other global problems besides hunger,’ I say that without sustenance, people are not able to address other issues,” Jo Luck said. “For me, ending hunger is a prerequisite for peace.”

Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work in world agriculture, envisioned a prize to honor those who have dedicated themselves to improving the world's food supply. He saw the prize as a means of establishing role models to inspire others, and saw his dream realized when The World Food Prize was created in 1986.

Since then, laureates have been recognized from countries and organizations around the world, including Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Cuba, Denmark, Ethiopia, India, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and the United States. Laureates include:

  • Former U.S. Senators Robert Dole and George McGovern, for encouraging a global commitment to school feeding and enhanced school attendance and nutrition for millions of the world’s poorest children, especially girls.
  • Dr. Pedro A. Sanchez, United States, who pioneered ways to restore fertility to the poorest and most degraded soils in Latin America and Africa,
  • Dr. Muhammad Yunus, Bangladesh, developed innovative small loan programs for the poor, providing millions of people access to more food and better nutrition.
  • Dr. Madadugu Gupta, India, whose achievements in freshwater aquaculture helped millions of rural farmers overcome severe poverty and nutritional deficiencies.
  • Catherine Bertini, the United Nations World Food Programme’s executive director from 1992 to 2002, who transformed that agency from a development assistance organization into the world’s largest and most responsive humanitarian relief organization.
  • Dr. Walter Plowright, United Kingdom, for his development of a vaccine that has eliminated rinderpest, commonly known as cattle plague, from most regions of the developing world.

The World Food Prize is sponsored by businessman and philanthropist John Ruan.

Jo Luck joined Heifer International in 1989 as director of International Programs, and in 1992 was named president and chief executive officer. That same year she became president of the Heifer International Foundation, serving in that role until 2001.

Prior to joining Heifer, she was then-Gov. Bill Clinton’s first cabinet appointee in 1979 when he named her executive director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. She served in that post for a decade.

She also served as the first executive director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, an organization modeled after the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, D.C.; attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University; and served on the executive committee of the Alumni Advisory Board. In 1999, she attended Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Session on Governing for Nonprofit Excellence.

Jo Luck is currently writing a book for Heifer about her two decades’ of experiences with the global hunger-fighting organization and the families it serves.

“Before retiring in July 2011, my hope is to pass on the gift of compelling stories that illustrate how a significant and sustaining impact can be achieved with modest, yet appropriate, resources accompanied by adequate training and education,” Jo Luck said.

“Over the past two decades I have received more than I have given. If I have a legacy I hope it will be leading the organization in identifying and articulating the core values on which all of our work is based and that crosses all cultures,” she said. “These principles, called the ‘Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development,’ transcend cultures and are readily embraced by our project communities because they embody intrinsic and universal needs. They include: improving the environment, genuine need and justice, sharing and caring, accountability, gender equity and family focus, full participation, nutrition and income, sustainability and self-reliance, training and education, and passing on the gift.”

Beckmann has been president of Bread for the World for more than 15 years, leading large-scale and successful campaigning to strengthen U.S. political commitment to overcoming hunger and poverty. Before that, he served at the World Bank for 15 years, overseeing large projects and driving innovations to make the Bank more effective in reducing poverty. Beckmann is also president of Bread for the World Institute, which does research and education on hunger-related issues, including agriculture and trade policy.

Heifer’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. Since 1944, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in 50 countries, including the United States, to help families and communities become more self-reliant.

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