Students and adults alike will enjoy exploring the impressive new educational exhibits at the World Food Prize Foundation Hall of Laureates in downtown Des Moines. Thoughtful and well-planned, the Educational Exhibits Wing rivals what you would expect at the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C.
The interactive exhibits are a fun, interesting way to learn about the history of food and agriculture, about famous Iowans and to gain a better understanding of the global challenges related to hunger. You'll also learn about new solutions and innovations that will change the world.
World Food Prize offers visitors a new experience
Two large rooms feature more than a dozen interactive displays with videos, touchscreens, stunning photography and more. At the recent grand opening Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, explained, "We welcome school groups, other visitors and the public to come learn about food, farming and Iowa's humanitarian heritage. We hope these exhibits will inspire people young and old to learn more about not only our food system but also the world around us."
The exhibit's opening coincides with the centennial celebration of John Ruan Sr. and Norman Borlaug, both born in 1914. Borlaug, a renowned crop scientist who grew up on an Iowa farm, founded the World Food Prize in 1986. Ruan, a Des Moines businessman, saved the annual prize by establishing an endowment to fund it.
Inspiring achievement is the purpose of WFP programs
The two men were passionate about inspiring the next generation. They created the World Food Prize youth programs. Today those programs involve hundreds of students across the U.S. each year propelling them into academic studies and careers in science, agriculture and related STEM fields. This is the 20th anniversary year for the WFP youth programs.
In the new exhibit area, displays include an interactive timeline depicting the history of agriculture, an exhibit of Iowa agricultural stories, a database of the World Food Prize Laureates, a central exhibit on global innovations in feeding the world, and exhibits on the history of the century-old former Des Moines Public Library, a magnificent structure that has been renovated and restored and is now the Hall of Laureates. Visitors can also tour the building and see the Howard G. Buffett international photography display, titled "40 Chances."
A walk through the past, a look at the future
The world grows by 150,000 people each day, all of whom must be fed. That's one example of the meaningful information that sticks with you. Another area of the exhibit walks you through the history of agriculture over the past 11,000 years. It leaves you with an understanding of what we face now -- the single greatest challenge in human history. Can our planet, can the human race, feed the 9 billion people who will inhabit the earth in 2050?
You see when the first seeds were planted by the first farmers 11,000 years ago; it was women doing most of the planting. There were 1 million people on the face of the earth then. The earth's population didn't reach 1 billion people until Iowa was opened for settlement in the 1830s. That is an incredible statistic. Today, in less than 200 years, the global population is over 7 billion and will approach 9 billion people by the year 2050.
The greatest challenge civilization has ever faced
The World Food Prize each year honors individuals for outstanding work in advancing human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. "The prize exists to inspire the breakthrough achievements we need to be able to meet the challenge of feeding 9 billion people," says Quinn. "One of the exhibits allows you to push buttons and see innovations being done today through science and ingenuity to enable mankind to do this. But it's not certain we as a civilization are going to reach the goal."
As one of the exhibits explains, Norman Borlaug expressed the problem this way: If you take the total amount of all the grain produced in the last 11,000 years, that's how much food must be grown in the next 50 years to feed all these people. This goal must be met without having more land, and in the face of climate volatility, droughts, floods and potential instability due to price increases. Other challenges include environmental sustainability and improved nutrition, gender equality and uplifting smallholder farmers.
It's rewarding to see visitors enjoy the exhibits
The new exhibits are getting a "thumbs up" from visitors. "We welcome audiences of all ages, including school children," says Mashal Husain, vice president of the World Food Prize. "We look forward to many yellow buses pulling up to our building to visit the exhibits and take this very worthwhile, fun and interesting educational tour."
The World Food Prize Hall of Laureates is at 100 Locust Street in downtown Des Moines. It is open to the public for tours free of charge from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on most Tuesdays and Saturdays. For updated information on when the building is open to the public or to arrange a group tour, you should visit the website or phone 515-247-2222.
VISITORS WELCOME: The new educational exhibits at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates give you a look at the challenges in feeding people around the world, and the amazing new innovations being developed to enhance global agriculture.
A REAL GEM: Kenneth Quinn (center), president of the World Food Prize, greets visitors at the Feb. 15 grand opening of the new Interactive Educational Exhibit Wing. From planning to finish, the exhibits were a three-year endeavor.
COME EXPLORE: More than a dozen exhibits explain the progress of food production over the past 11,000 years. The exhibits tell the story of global food security, the history of world agriculture and the challenges ahead.
INTERACTIVE: A fun way to learn, especially for school children, the exhibits feature hands-on technology, including touch-screen televisions with world maps exploring topics such as food and nutrition. Other stations offer screens that change at the flip of a slide.
RICH HISTORY: You can also come in and soak up the history of the building. Built in 1899, the former Des Moines Public Library is now the World Food Prize headquarters. The murals were painted as a WPA project during the Great Depression, supervised by Grant Wood.
IOWA AGRICULTURE: Some stations take a look at major Iowa ag products farmers produce. Also featured is information about famous Iowans, such as Henry A. Wallace (pictured here) and their roles in the history of agriculture.
LEARNING OPPORTUNITY: Des Moines vo-ag teacher Jacob Hunter (left) discusses an exhibit with students Mikel Wright (center) and Dakota Lyddon. The stations offer not only a chance to read information, but also to watch and listen. Videos are accessible with a listening device similar to a phone.