Changing the world one tweet at a time: My summer with the World Food Prize

The World Food Prize honors those who have helped advance the quality, quantity and availability of food in the world. Photo by Melanie Van Horn

Name: Melanie Van Horn

Year in School: junior

Major: public relations

Position: social media and writing intern, World Food Prize Foundation

Walking into the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates for the first time is a breathtaking experience for anyone, especially for a young public relations major taking on her very first internship. Two ballrooms flank the main entry hall, and a wide stone staircase surrounded by two enormous pillars invites you toward a wall-sized stained glass window that filters the afternoon sun. All I could think was: How did I get lucky enough to end up here?

But it’s not just the beauty that captures your attention – if you tilt your head up slightly, a single quote etched on a wall would be enough to stop you in your tracks.

“Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world.” -Norman Borlaug

Food insecurity and world hunger are two things I didn’t know much about prior to this summer. It wasn’t until I was chosen to be the George Washington Carver social media and writing intern with the World Food Prize Foundation that my world collided with those who have devoted their entire lives to ending hunger and food insecurity.

The World Food Prize, often called “The Nobel Prize for Agriculture,” was founded by Norman Borlaug, a man who grew up on a small farm in north Iowa and is credited with saving the lives of over a billion people by developing varieties of disease-resistant wheat. He is one of only five people who have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (Fun fact: the other four people are Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Elie Wiesel and Nelson Mandela – not bad company for an Iowa farm kid). The World Food Prize honors those who have spent their lives working to fight hunger and food insecurity each October with a ceremony held in Des Moines, Iowa.

While working as the social media intern, I was responsible for creating daily social media posts about food, agriculture and the mission of World Food Prize. I also created a social media kit for the upcoming announcement of the 2018 World Food Prize Laureates and wrote press releases highlighting 30 interns who were selected for the Wallace-Carver Internship.

One of my favorite experiences as an intern was working on the morning of the Laureate announcement ceremony. The names of the winners were embargoed before the announcement ceremony, so we waited on the edge of our seats to post the winners the moment their names were revealed. My fellow interns and I live-tweeted promotional materials across social media platforms announcing the two winners, Lawrence Haddad and David Nabarro, who have advocated to prioritize maternal and childhood nutrition.

As the congratulations poured in for our 2018 Laureates, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction. As a social media intern, much of your work can feel like it’s going out into a giant void on the internet. Is anyone reading what you write? Do tweets really matter when 815 million people face hunger around the world?

I won’t claim to know the answer. But as I watched people around the world unite on social media to celebrate, it didn’t feel like I was alone in a beautiful building in Des Moines, behind the monitor of a computer screen. It felt like I was part of a global movement that seeks a world where no one has to go hungry, and we were all celebrating the people who make it happen.

Can a tweet change the world? If it celebrates people who are working to end hunger and better the lives of millions of people around the world, it just might.

Vote for this blog post in Round 2 of the 2018 Greenlee Summer Intern Blogging Competition. Voting opens at 11:59 p.m. CST on August 8 and closes at 11:59 p.m. CST on August 15. The author of the post that receives the most votes will receive the $50 Amazon gift card.