Designs Program to Attract Students with Common Interest in Food Shortages
Being in the midst of the holiday season, hunger is a topic that, for most Americans, is even more unimaginable than usual. We’re surrounded by feasts of flavorful meats, decadent pies and casseroles galore. Even during seasons of less bounty, most of us have never experienced the burning in our stomachs, dehydration, fatigue and apathy associated with a lack of food. But over 800 million people worldwide (13 percent of the earth’s population) have felt those pains.
One Alabama teen isn’t letting that staggering figure fall upon deaf ears.
This summer, Ethan Hill, a junior at Auburn High School, began talking with his parents about community service projects. After some discussion, he began looking deeper into the global food shortage problem and what he could do to make a difference. Living just a stone’s throw from Auburn University, he learned more about the epidemic after looking into the university’s student-led "War on Hunger" initiative sponsored in conjunction with the United Nations World Food Program.
After talking with some of the university leaders about their "Universities Fighting World Hunger" program which links universities around the world, Hill decided to establish a similar program at his school called "Schools Fighting World Hunger." Although in its early stages, the program aims to increase students’ awareness and advocacy of solving the world’s food shortage. Ethan said although the program is still in its beginning phase, it has been warmly received by the students who have been involved.
"The students I have talked to about it are pretty excited about getting it started and trying to connect with other students in Alabama and around the world," he said. "We would be the first high school in the U.S. to start it, so it would be a really big deal."
Hill found a way to gain even more insight on the world food shortage, and after writing an eight-page paper on hunger in the country of Nepal, he was invited to attend the Global Youth Institute hosted by the World Food Prize Foundation. He describes the gathering as an "organization founded by Dr. (Norman) Borlaug for fighting hunger by bringing the future generations into the problems dealing with world hunger."
The three-day event was held in Des Moines, Iowa, in mid-October and gave over 100 students across the U.S. and other countries the opportunity to interact with world leaders, share their thoughts and ideas with their peers, tour research and industrial facilities, and participate in hands-on projects.
The event boasted presentations by several distinguished global leaders, but Hill said his favorite speakers were Bill Gates; the Secretaries of Agriculture for the U.S., Mexico and Canada; and the president of Pepsi Co.
Hill said he also enjoyed making friends with students from different places who shared a common commitment to fighting global hunger, and he plans to keep in touch with many of them via FaceBook.
"A lot of the kids there were from Iowa, since that’s where it’s hosted, but there were kids from around the world, including one from Peru and one from Tanzania," he said. "It was pretty gratifying to see other kids who have a similar perspective and who are interested in hunger and how to fix it."
Another part of the trip Hill enjoyed was the tours, and he said the tour of the medical school in Des Moines and Dupont’s Pioneer Seed facilities were the most interesting stops.
"We went to the Des Moines Medical School," he said. "It was very striking to see the nutritional effects on people who don’t get adequate food. We also went to Pioneer Seed’s corporate headquarters and toured their building. It was pretty impressive to see what effects Dupont and Pioneer have on the industry with the seeds they produce."
But the highlight of the trip for Hill was the chance to put his cause into action.
"We got to pack food for kids in Tanzania," he said. "That was a good hands-on experience — seeing what they’re going to be eating, how the process is done and how fighting hunger is taken further than just people giving money. It makes it a realistic process that shows we can have a real impact if people support us."
Hill and his fellow Youth Institute constituents attended the televised World Food Prize award ceremony which is held in conjunction with the Norman E. Borlaug International Symposium or "Borlaug Dialogue" as it is better known. Hill said he was awed by the magnitude of the event.
"They put us in the capitol building right behind the keynote speaker, and it was really cool to know the presidents of foreign countries and ambassadors were just a few feet away from us and to see the presentation and how well-known and advocated it is in Iowa," he said. "Just to be in the presence of all those people and to be considered so important by all of them was quite an honor for us, and to know they acknowledge us and they put their support behind the program meant a lot."
Hill said the conference left a lasting impact on him and he was struck by the effort the organization leaders put in to promoting this topic for the attendees.
"I think it was important they advocated so much for the future, and they’re clearly trying to build for the future and get kids interested in the advancement of agriculture in the U.S. and the world. They’re trying to bring young people forward who will be able to produce better agriculture and get kids interested in it. They’re pushing us forward so we can become more involved in science, agriculture and in global food issues. We are being better prepared to advance our generation to where it needs to be as far as feeding everybody in the world."
After returning from his trip to Des Moines, Hill is taking on the task of developing his Schools Fighting World Hunger program with gusto.
"I’ve talked to the leader of the (Auburn) University project, Dr. Harriet Giles, and I plan to talk to Dr. (June) Henton, to try to figure out the best way we can build an infrastructure and become the most successful in schools," he said. "It would be my hope before the end of the year we would be able to begin laying the groundwork, and I know next year we’ll be able to be a lot more involved, once we have more support of the students and our project is better known…by next year we should have a pretty good foundation."
Like the esteemed humanitarian and renowned agronomist Norman Borlaug, Hill realizes the dire need to feed the hungry and he knows the key to fighting that battle begins with an industry that hits home to many Cooperative Farming News readers.
"Food and water are the two biggest issues for human life, and right now a billion people around the world do not get adequate food. I think if we want to help people in any other way, the issue of food needs to be the base point where we start. Advancing agriculture is the key to feeding people, and improving agricultural science and technology will be the only way we’re going to be able to feed the people of the world — through producing better, higher-yielding crops, producing more drought and pest-resistant plants, and producing hardier plants," he said.
Grace Smith is an associate editor for AFC Cooperative Farming News.