The World Food Prize organization (founded by Norman Borlaug and based in Des Moines, Iowa) awards a substantial sum annually to the individual who has “done the most to help done the most to advance human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.” 

Food Prize Laureates have made huge strides improving rice production, developing high protein maize, eradicating plant diseases and much more. Students will find a wealth of information about hunger and those who combat it on The World Food Prize website at:


Each month on the Core Virtues website, we feature the life of a hero or heroine – men and women who have tirelessly pursued excellence in their lives and helped improve the lives of others. We tie each month’s biography to the virtue of the month or to a theme suggested by the particular time of the year.


Diligence, Self-Control and Self-Discipline, Perseverance

In October, when learning becomes a challenge, we want to keep before our students the importance of their studies and the good that can come of their hard work and diligence.  So, we feature here a modern intellectual hero - a man whose great strides in learning and discovery helped us understand our world and improved the lives of others.


borlaugNorman Borlaug  (1914-2009)

This Iowa-born prairie farm boy had a passion for growing crops and ending hunger.  Father of what as been called “the Green Revolution,” he received his Ph.D. in plant genetics in 1942, and set off to impoverished Mexico to help increase crop yields there.  His path-breaking work in the late 1940s resulted in hardier, high-yield wheat strains that vastly improved harvests.  (Mexico had been importing wheat and corn to feed its people, but within a decade became an exporter.) For this work, Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.  His services were in demand, and he was called to India and Pakistan, where drought and famine threatened starvation on a mass scale.  His work developing higher-yielding strains of wheat and rice helped dramatically increase harvests and avert mass starvation.  He has been called “the man who has saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived.”  Work ethic, intellectual curiosity, and a passion for helping others, are all exemplified in the life of Norman Borlaug.

Borlaug’s Legacy

Norman Borlaug was a humble and self-effacing man. When he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, he was dumbfounded, and he urged the Nobel committee to launch instead a Nobel Food and Agriculture Prize. They did not take his advice, so while he continued his own work, Borlaug pursued other avenues. He launched “The World Food Prize” in 1987. (See sidebar)

An outstanding children’s book about Borlaug has not yet been written, but younger students (K-3) will enjoy reading Lora Swanson’s introduction: 

Norman Borlaug: Hero in a Hurry
Book Surge Publishing, 2009




Older students could tackle the fascinating biography by Leon Hesser,

The Man Who Fed the World: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Norman Borlaug and His Battle to End World

Durbin House, 2006