Andrew Evans, Collin Slattery, Luke Schultes, Derek Drees, and Jordan Seidl attended the World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute at Iowa State University in Ames in April. Each student researched a different county and food issue.
Andrew Evans, Collin Slattery, Luke Schultes, Derek Drees, and Jordan Seidl attended the World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute at Iowa State University in Ames in April. Each student researched a different county and food issue.
May 6, 2014

What if wind energy could power wells in Afghanistan? What if families in Bolivian communities were given the tools to plant community gardens? How does North Korea's high military spending impact food security for its residents?

These issues were tackled this year, and proposed solutions presented to international ambassadors, U.S. political leaders and foreign agricultural secretaries Iowa students, including five Kuemper Catholic High School sophomores.

Kuemper's Andrew Evans, Collin Slattery, Luke Schultes, Derek Drees and Jordan Seidl joined more than 200 of their fellow Iowa students on the Iowa State University campus in Ames last month to present their research on factors contributing to and possible solutions to address food insecurity in countries across the globe. The presentations were part of the third annual World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute.

The students completed the research for a sophomore honors English class, said Mary Koester, enriched learning teacher for kindergarten through eighth grades and chaperone for the Ames trip. About 45 students completed the research, and a group of community members selected the students to attend the conference.

"Kids were researching a part of the world they knew nothing about and researching issues that are very current," said Koester, praising the real-world relevance of the program in terms of both content and the writing and speaking skills students acquire.

"These topics are foremost in the world today," she added.

Slattery studied water and sanitation in Afghanistan, proposing wind energy to help address the need for clean water - a commodity to which less than 1 percent of Afghani citizens have access.

Drees proposed implementation of sustainable agricultural practices, such as crop rotation, in Ethiopia - 85 percent of the population relies on the industry, which experiences frequent droughts, for employment.

Schultes studied political instability in North Korea and its impact on food security. The North Korean government allocates 80 percent of its budget to military spending, leaving little to address food needs of its people.

Evans studied malnutrition and obesity in Guatemala and the effects of its 35-year civil war on food production.

Seidl studied malnutrition in Bolivia, noting that 65 percent of Bolivian citizens don't have access to running water, and proposing a community-garden program to teach residents how to grow and prepare healthful meals.

At the institute, the students were divided randomly into roundtable groups of eight to 10 students and several experts - college professors, ambassadors, business leaders, politicians - to present their research and receive feedback from the adults and their peers. In the afternoon, the students and accompanying teachers attended small sessions on topics ranging from aquaculture and hydroponics experiments on the ISU campus to policy issues surrounding the agriculture industry and food security.

The 2014 Institute marked the third anniversary for the World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute and the 20th anniversary for a World Food Prize youth program, said Megan Forgrave, director of communications for the program. The event has tripled in size over the last three years.

"The goal is to inspire and encourage students to explore careers in STEM fields," said Forgrave, referencing the science, technology, engineering and math push in education, of which agriculture is a part.

Forgrave hopes to see every school in the state participate in the program in the next few years.

2014 marked the second year the research was included in Kuemper's curriculum, the third year a Kuemper student participated in Iowa's youth institute and at least the 15th year Kuemper had been connected with a World Food Prize youth program, said Koester.

In early summer, 80 of the 230 students who attended Iowa's institute will be selected to participate in the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute in October with more than 1,200 other individuals from 65 countries. Both Schultes and Seidl have indicated interest.

All five students will receive a $500 scholarship to the ISU Agricultural and Life Sciences College. They also have the opportunity to apply for Wallace-Carver internships with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

Students who attend the global institute have an opportunity to become Borlaug-Ruan international interns, sent on all-expenses-paid, eight-week internships in research facilities located across the globe.

These youth institutes were first envisioned by Dr. Norman Bourlag, recipient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize and 1986 founder of the World Food Prize. His centennial is being celebrated this year.