Written by World Link YES Student, Yash Saboo '18 (India/IA)
When we identify humanities greatest necessity, it is not weapons, monuments or empires. It is the basic necessity of food. There have been many battles and conquests throughout time between nations about food security. In fact, it’s pretty astonishing to realize that this commodity has been the maker and breaker of many empires. And yet again with us jumping into this era of exponential growth in every calculable sector, the need for a steady supply of healthy and nutritious food is once again in high demand. Now this responsibility, once shouldered by our forefathers, has moved into the 21st century, and I believe has motivated us to create different conferences like the World Food Prize to help solve this global issue.
What it is
The World Food Prize, a conference organized by the Iowa Youth Institute was held on April 30th, 2018 at Iowa State University. During this conference, high school students engage with local leaders and experts on critical global food security challenges, participate in hands-on science activities, and explore innovative ways to make a difference in solving the issues of food scarcity in Iowa and around the world. In order to attend this conference, participants are selected through authoring a competitive research paper. The research paper should address a relevant food security related topic like sustainable agriculture, animal agriculture, food spoilage and waste in any country of our choosing. We needed to research the topic, its relevance in that country, analyze the impact of food security, and further explore and propose real life and viable solutions to the issue we chose.
My research paper was based on my true-life experience. It was an eight-page long paper with a theme concerning food waste and spoilage in my home country of India. I started by stating the problem, the causes and the solution. I wanted to get to the root of the issue so I tried to look at all the variables on a local level, comparing the lifestyle of families in urban communities and rural communities, and then I started figuring out all the potential areas where food is wasted in the complete value chain from farm to consumption. I divided this value chain into 2 parts in order to make it more organized. First, being from farm to fork and another being fork to consumption. I tried to relate how lack of proper infrastructure, technology, education and finances is causing a massive food loss on a production level.
Further on a more individual basis, I emphasized how the really small things in society like changes to the size of our refrigerators and dinnerware, having proper portion control, and no trays in cafeterias and lunch halls can actually help dial down food waste by a massive scale. I also discussed some of the amazing enterprises and inventions that have helped with reducing food loss and waste. Organizations like Copia and technology like the FoodCam has greatly influenced food sharing and waste reduction. My paper was well-received and I was the first from my school selected to attend this conference.
On the day of the competition, me along with my adviser arrived at to the conference hotel. After a quick breakfast, we were welcomed to the conference by World Food Prize Laureates, Ambassadors and politicians. We were then divided into smaller groups for round table sessions and we dispersed into conference rooms where we presented our research papers to experts and shared it among our peers to gather some feedback and advice. Following the round-table session, we had a 3-hour long group discussion in which we discussed the potential impediments to food security by looking at various countries monetary policy and their stance on food security as stated in the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds then gave a keynote speech. After lunch we broke into a cultural immersion discussion with the topic of World Agriculture where we talked about different farm practices across the world and tried bouncing off ideas of real life solutions to improve situations. The conference closed with some final words from the organizers, congratulating all of the participants and advisers. Participants, including myself were then commemorated with an award and a scholarship of $500 dollars.
This conference led me to realize no matter the past, there is always a hope for the future. It again showed me, as my whole exchange year has, that youth have the power to solve these global issues. Between the negotiations and deliberations all of us pondered on the thought of universal food security, the sheer realization that our ideas today might just someday save lives, gives me inspiration and a dream worth working for.