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Top Prize for Top Leaders at Bread for the World, Heifer International

NGOs play vital role in mobilizing grass roots to fight hunger.

Full disclosure: Art Simon, founder of the Christian hunger advocacy organization Bread for the World, is one of my personal heroes; I served briefly on the Bread for the World's board of directors; and I consider David Beckman, Bread's current president to be a sacrificial servant leader.

That's why I was delighted yesterday to learn that David Beckman and Jo Luck, president of Heifer International, have been jointly awarded this year's World Food Prize.

The World Food Prize is less well known than, say, the Nobel Prize, but it carries a lot of prestige. It was created in 1986 by the American agronomist and Nobel winner Norman Borlaug, father of the Green Revolution. Past winners include Bangladeshi microenterprise guru Muhammad Yunus (1994) and Senators Bob Dole and George McGovern (2008) for their long cooperation on such antihunger initiatives as global school feeding programs.

By recognizing the leaders of Bread and Heifer, the World Food Prize highlighted the "critical efforts of NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] in mobilizing and empowering everyday citizens to end hunger in communities around the world." Beckman, in turn, gave credit to "all that Bread for the World members and churches across the country have done to get our government to help end hunger in our country and around the world."

Bread for the World researches food and hunger issues and coordinates grass-roots advocacy by equipping church-based volunteer groups to lobby government leaders.

Heifer International fights hunger by providing livestock, seeds, and training to poor people in the developing world. As livestock reproduce, Heifer requires its clients to "pass on the gift." Heifer's work began in 1944 when Church of the Brethren relief worker Dan West shipped 17 heifers from Pennsylvania to Puerto Rico. West realized that shipping cows would provide longer lasting benefits to undernourished children than merely shipping them milk.

Best wishes to Bread, Heifer, and the grassroots activists they represent.

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