The World Food Prize Foundation, the Iowa-based international organization recognizing the achievements of individuals who have worked to improve the quality, quantity and availability of food in the world, announced Nov. 12 that Barbara Stinson has been named president of the organization, effective Jan. 4.
Stinson previously served as a co-founder and manager of the Meridian Institute, a nonprofit group that guides collaboration and drives action to address the world’s complex challenges. As the new World Food Prize president, she succeeds Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, whose 20-year presidency established the international reputation and secured the legacy of the World Food Prize. Stinson will become the second president of the WFP Foundation since Norman Borlaug established it in 1986.
“Our board, our council of advisers and I are delighted Barbara will join the World Food Prize Foundation as our next president. We look forward to her leading the foundation’s next era as we continue to advance Borlaug’s mission of increasing agricultural productivity and education globally,” said John Ruan III, chairman of the foundation.
Working to bring people together
“Based on her policy credentials, ability to convene diverse groups of people to advance a common purpose, proven business management skills and passion for our purpose, I’m confident Barbara is the right leader to uphold the outstanding reputation of the World Food Prize while expanding the impact of our programs to address pressing global challenges, including nutrition, climate change, water and soil management, gender equity and youth engagement,” Ruan said.
Stinson brings more than 30 years of experience in environmental public policy and business management, focusing the last 10 years on global food security and food safety. She has led collaborations addressing complex challenges, such as tackling food safety in sub-Saharan Africa and addressing the impact of climate change in ag productivity. Her work emphasizes policies and programs that support smallholder farmers, especially women and youth, by bringing institutional support and access to new tools, technologies and data to improve the quantity, quality and availability of food.
“I’m excited and honored to lead the World Food Prize Foundation,” Stinson said. “I’m committed to shaping the strategic direction of the foundation, expanding its reach and programs to continue Dr. Borlaug’s mission to end hunger. I look forward to working alongside the council of advisers, laureates, partners and staff to make a meaningful impact in the lives of smallholder farmers, specifically women and youth. It’s imperative that public and private partners collectively mobilize to address critical global challenges that are impacting the health of our people and planet. Together, I’m confident we can make significant progress by 2050.”
Experience with ag-related issues
Louise Fresco, president of the executive board of Wageningen University and member of the WFP foundation’s council of advisers, says “Engaging youth around the world is critical to achieving our global food security goals. Barbara brings the policy and management experience necessary to help our foundation and its partners continue expanding the impact of World Food Prize’s youth programs globally.”
Tom Vilsack, former U.S. secretary of agriculture and former governor of Iowa, is a member of the foundation’s board of directors. “From Washington, D.C., to small family farms around the world, the mission of the World Food Prize continues to drive us forward to once and for all end hunger,” he said. “I’m eager to begin working closely with Barbara to continue the legacy of Dr. Borlaug and extend its impact and reach as we strive to engage the next generation of farmers, food scientists and innovators.”
During her 22 years at Meridian, Stinson led programs focused on innovative approaches to advancing agricultural development, alternative energy development, ecosystem restoration, climate change, air quality management, natural resource management and low-level radioactive waste disposal. She was responsible for more than 40 major collaborative problem-solving projects, involving thousands of stakeholders from diverse perspectives.
Prior to Meridian, she worked in the science and public policy program for The Keystone Policy Center. She has a master’s degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s in environmental conservation from University of Colorado.
Passion to achieve WFP goals
“Our World Food Prize search committee considered dozens of excellent candidates for the position as our new president,” Ruan said. “In Barbara Stinson, we found a leader with the ability and passion necessary to achieve our goals.”
Looking forward, Stinson said, “You can see in various parts of the world we have achieved reductions in hunger by official measures and statistics. And that is great to see, but we still face over 800 million people hungry every day in the world. The challenge is global, and it’s more pronounced on certain continents. In absolute numbers, in Asia and Africa, by prevalence more people go to bed hungry per capita than on any continent in the world. There is still much work to be done.”
Quinn, who announced his retirement in March, will continue to lead the World Food Prize until the end of this year. “I applaud the board’s selection of Barbara as the next president of the World Food Prize,” he said. “I know the foundation will continue to prosper and grow under her leadership.”