Millions of people are going hungry due to food distribution problems, droughts, wars, and corruption in third world governments. Add an additional three billion people over the next 30 years. How do we feed everyone?
Then, consider the continuing “Brain Drain” in the agricultural science fields and an aging population of farmers, and the question in the future may become: How do we feed ourselves?
Those were some of the points Culver Girls Academy seniors Katie Driscoll (Durango, Colo.) and Julia Smith (Bloomington, Ind.) returned with after attending the World Food Prize’s Global Youth Institute in Des Moines, Iowa, in mid-October. Created by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug, Ph.D., and Iowa businessman/philanthropist John Ruan III ’61, the World Food Prize brings 200 high school students together with 1,500 people from more than 60 countries to discuss the world’s hunger and food security issues during an international symposium.
The number of farmers is dwindling, not just in America, but around the world. Driscoll said China was cited as one country that is starting to see a problem as younger people leave the rural areas and move to the cities in pursuit of higher-paying jobs. In the United States, the number of farmers has fallen to under two percent of the population – and many of them are quickly approaching retirement age or have already passed it.
That is coupled with the lack of students going into the agricultural science fields, such as biology and chemistry. It is the research and development by those scientists that make food more efficient to produce and more nutritious. Two of the 2016 World Food Prize laureates were honored for developing disease-resistant, drought-tolerant, high yielding varieties of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. They also improved the vitamin A content, which helps combat blindness, immune system disorders, and premature death in children and pregnant women in Africa.
Smith said other concerns raised during the symposium were the lack of infrastructure to distribute the existing food supply, and ensuring the safety of those people who are distributing that food in war-torn areas like Syria.
The overall theme of international symposium was “Let Food Be Thy Medicine.” Following that theme, Driscoll and Smith wrote essays in their AP World History class covering related topics. Driscoll covered the use of antibiotics in the food chain and Smith’s detailed the disease Schistomomiasis (snail fever). They presented their papers at the state conference at Purdue University, and were selected to present before a panel of judges, which included college professors and past winners of the World Food Prize, in Des Moines.
Driscoll and Smith were accompanied by Director of Sustainability/leadership instructor Christopher Kline ’82 and math instructor Sandy Reavill (Read Kline’s story on the World Food Prize).
The World Food Prize was founded in 1986 by Borlaug, who received the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for developing several new strains of wheat and other grains that were draught and disease resistant. He was credited with saving 100 million people from starvation. Using his prize money from the Nobel Prize and other resources, he created the World Food Prize. In 1990, Ruan, who is a member of the Culver Educational Foundation Board of Trustees, assumed sponsorship and established The World Food Prize Foundation.