October 12, 2016
Two Iowans who’ve helped build a program that’s addressing the complexities of hunger around the world were honored this week by the World Food Prize Foundation, based in Des Moines. The World Food Prize presented the 2016 Robert D. Ray Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award to Rev. Joan Fumetti of Windsor Heights and Ron De Weerd of Rock Valley for their role in building the Foods Resource Bank (FRB) program in Iowa.
HELPING OTHERS: Working to relieve world hunger, Ron De Weerd of Rock Valley and Rev. Joan Fumetti of Windsor Heights received the 2016 Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award for their help in building the Foods Resource Bank program.
FRB raises money to help people in developing countries grow their own food. This is the first time the Iowa SHARES honor has been bestowed on two people. FRB operates not only in Iowa but in other states too, and is known as one of the most dynamic and innovative agricultural development programs.
Helping vulnerable smallholder farmers around the globe
Created in 1999, the genius of FRB is its ability to link ag producers in the U.S. directly to poor and vulnerable smallholder farmers around the globe, helping them improve food production. The key concept is known as a “growing project” in which U.S. farmers pledge a portion of their crop to this program. Money generated from the sale of that portion, whether 5 or 200 acres, is distributed through FRB to 16 “implementing organizations.”
These are highly effective private development agencies that carry out food security programs in remote villages in 30 different countries where assistance is most needed. If provided with training and basic inputs like seed or small tools, smallholder farmers can increase their harvest and their community’s food security.
FRB is effectively growing lasting solutions to world hunger
Over the last two decades this effort has raised over $47 million across America. Of that total more than $6.7 million has been raised by Iowans, mostly through “growing projects.” With more than 150 farmers now involved in Iowa, 1,000 other volunteers are also participating.
FRB has already impacted 1 million people worldwide and has begun work on “The Next 1 Million" as its programs continue. Approximately 140,000 of the first million people were assisted by funds raised in Iowa. Marv Baldwin, president and CEO of FRB confirmed that Iowa is the leading state in supporting this international agricultural development effort.
Recruiting Iowa farmers, churches and others to participate
Fumetti and De Weerd have worked at the community and individual farm level recruiting Iowa farmers and church congregations to form action groups to raise money to fund programs. Iowa is at the top in terms of funds generated and overseas programs supported. “A significant part of FRB’s success is credited to the commitment and hard work of the two 2016 Iowa SHARES Award recipients, Joan Fumetti and Ron De Weerd,” says Ambassador Ken Quinn, president of the World Food Prize.
“Foods Resource Bank was just starting its operations at the same time I returned home to Iowa to become president of the World Food Prize,” says Quinn. “In those early days I accompanied FRB leaders to see one of the very first community ‘growing projects’ that had been formed. It struck me as being an inspired approach. Iowa farmers rightfully state that they help feed the world. Working through FRB, they are also uplifting the poorest smallholder farmers in the most challenging situations halfway around the globe. For their role in leading this impressive endeavor, Joan and Ron are truly deserving of our appreciation and thanks.”
Inspiring humanitarian effort, the Iowa SHARES Award
The fourth annual Robert D. Ray Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award was presented October 10 at the 2016 Iowa Hunger Summit, a free, annual grassroots event organized by The World Food Prize to unite all Iowans working to alleviate hunger at home and abroad. This is the 10th year for the Hunger Summit.
The Iowa SHARES Award was established in recognition of the exceptional leadership that former Governor Ray demonstrated in dealing with situations affecting refugees in Indochina, after the Vietnam War ended. The award is named after the Iowa SHARES campaign, which the governor created in 1979 to send desperately needed food and medicine to suffering and dying refugees from Cambodia. Iowa SHARES stands for Iowa Sends Help to Air Refugees and End Starvation.
Changing the effort from food aid to supporting small farmers
Ron De Weerd, FRB’s director of resource development, has been with FRB since its founding in 1999. Joan Fumetti joined FRB as a volunteer in 2001, became director of growing project development in 2002, and transitioned back to volunteer work when she retired from FRB in 2014. Together they have inspired thousands of people in Iowa and across the country to change the conversation about world hunger from food aid to supporting small farmers and their communities in impoverished parts of the world, as they grow their own lasting solutions to hunger.
“My colleague Ron De Weerd and I are very honored to receive this award, but it is really about all of us at FRB,” says Fumetti. “Without a bunch of Iowa farmers catching the vision and saying ‘We can do that!’ FRB would have been no more than a clever idea.” De Weerd adds, “Joan mentioned the volunteers. You can always find them in a room. They have little halos and wings on their shoulders. I really say thank you to the thousands of farmers and members at FRB and the many organizations that helped us get going.”
Ron and Joan have inspired farmers, landowners, rural and urban people, churches, businesses, civic groups, youth organizations and volunteers of every stripe to give the gifts they could give—time, expertise, elbow grease, or money—to help FRB offer practical and innovative ways to help smallholder farmers in poor nations grow their own food, care for their families, and stay in their own communities.
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