Learning About Global Food Security Issues in Des Moines, Iowa
Guest Blog Post by Andie Pinga ’19
Hello! My name is Andie Pinga and I’m a lower from Vermont. About a month ago, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Global Youth Institute World Food Prize conference in Des Moines, Iowa. I was honored to be chosen to represent Massachusetts based on a research paper I wrote over the summer. Under the advising of my Bio 100 teacher, Ms. Milkowski, I researched the effects of aflatoxin contamination as a major driver for malnutrition in Malawi. At the World Food Prize, I learned about food insecurity issues around world by immersing myself in the world of agronomists and interacting with some of the leading professionals in the agronomist field, listening to mind-blowing key note presentations, and meeting other passionate high school students from around the world.
The three-day conference was jam-packed with events and discussion. One of the most inspiring lectures I attended were in the World Food Prize Symposium. Among the many speakers, I was especially impressed by a presentation by Tom Vilsack, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, who illustrated government efforts to address food insecurity in the United States and around the world. In addition to the symposium, the Global Youth Institute hosted a “watch-party” of the laureate ceremony. This year’s World Food Prize was bestowed to four experts in the field, and the prize is often considered as the Nobel Prize of agriculture. The ceremony was absolutely beautiful and inspiring, and also allowed me to make some amazing friends.
One intriguing aspect of this experience was the ability to interact with real-life agronomists on a personal basis. I had the great privilege to meet the Former President of Malawi, Dr. Joyce Banda before she delivered her powerful speech on women empowerment. I was completely overwhelmed by the truth and weight of her words. And as well as taking picture with her, she was kind enough to sign my research paper!
I also had the privilege to talk with Florence Chenoweth, Liberia’s first woman Minister of Agriculture, and Dr. Per Pinstrup-Anderson, a 2001 World Food Prize Laureate and distinguished agricultural economist. In addition, I sat at meals and interacted with numerous scientists who would passionately described their current global projects and travels to foreign countries to me.
Another highlight of the World Food Prize was attending my first Oxfam Hunger Banquet. The event strives to model the world food situation on a smaller, more coherent scale. Each diner received a random raffle ticket to determine their economic status, which then determined the amount food they were served that night. My low-class meal consisted a bowl of rice shared between other participants. It was so enlightening to see the three classes interact and discover the distinct boundaries between the richest 20% and the rest of the world. Some of my friends even resorted to stealing part of the high-class’s three-course meal! In addition, we were able to package rice bags for Haiti through an assembly line. In total, we packaged two thousand pounds of rice.
My experience in the World Food Prize was exhilarating from start to end. On the last day, I was nominated by my peers to present our group discussion to the symposium after my own presentation on aflatoxin contamination. Honestly, I was absolutely terrified to speak to a such a distinguished audience. But I was thrilled to be given the honor to emulate the numerous speakers I had eagerly listened to over the previous three days.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to have attended the World Food Prize. I’m so excited to bring some of my experiences back to Andover – and I definitely recommend any student to submit a research paper! This was a priceless experience, and I am determined to take my place in the next generation of passionate hunger fighters today.