The 2020 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, announced on Friday, has a longstanding working relationship with Mississippi State University.
The World Food Program, a United Nations agency, works to provide food for undernourished populations, particularly in countries at war. The MSU Office of Public Affairs issued a congratulatory statement from university president Mark Keenum in a Saturday press release.
“Addressing hunger and promoting food security is key to facilitating peace and stability across the world,” Keenum said. “That is why organizations like the World Food Program are so important to ensuring a peaceful future, and why I have made global food security a focal point of our research and outreach efforts at MSU. Feeding a growing global population is a massive challenge, and this Nobel Peace Prize underscores the need to continue our role in the global fight against hunger.”
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could bring the number of people facing “acute food insecurity” up to 265 million worldwide, according to an April press release from WFP.
MSU and WFP have worked together since 2010 “on issues related to food safety and nutrition,” MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter said. The two entities signed an agreement in 2014 to focus on “cooperative efforts in areas such as nutrition, food safety, and food product development,” according to the press release.
Keenum and two other MSU leaders — Provost David Shaw and Interim Vice President for Research Julie Jordan — with U.N. leaders in Rome in November 2019 to discuss solutions to global food insecurity.
MSU invests $105 million, the eleventh-most nationwide, in agricultural sciences research and development, according to the National Science Foundation.
MSU also is the headquarters and leading institution in the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish, an aquaculture research organization funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The lab focuses on building sustainable fish farming systems in countries around the world to alleviate food insecurity.
Keenum is the chairman of both the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD), an advisory board to the United States Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research. Before becoming MSU’s president in 2009, Keenum was a USDA undersecretary in charge of overseeing international initiatives to combat world hunger.
He wrote a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee in January 2016 nominating WFP for that year’s Nobel Peace Prize. In the letter, which Salter provided to The Dispatch, Keenum pointed out WFP’s work to provide “millions of healthy school meals and supplementary nutrition” to children suffering from nutrient deficiencies “in the most destitute parts of the world.”
“All of us, and particularly the developed countries, have a moral obligation to address the persistent human tragedy of hunger and its associated ills,” Keenum wrote. “We must also recognize that lasting peace among and within nations is likely impossible while large populations remain at risk of starvation.”
WFP provided nutritional assistance to nearly 100 million people in 88 countries in 2019, with some of its largest efforts focused on Yemen and South Sudan. Founded in 1961, the organization has helped populations affected by a range of humanitarian crises, including the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia and wars in the Balkan region of Eastern Europe in the 1990s.