DES MOINES — On April 14, The World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute at Iowa State University brought together over 230 high school students and 120 teachers from across Iowa to explore critical global issues and academic and career paths in STEM fields. The highlight of the day was students’ interaction with 2010 World Food Prize Laureate Jo Luck, Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and ISU President Steven Leath, who is a plant scientist himselfCenterville Community School District students Grant Kelly, Elizabeth Hargrave and Ty Stewart attended the day’s events. They were accompanied by teacher Camie Hill.
Dr. Norman Borlaug, whose centennial is being celebrated this year and whose statue Iowa recently installed in the U.S. Capitol, envisioned this and other World Food Prize youth programs as the way to inspire the next generation of scientists and humanitarians to go into critical fields and to help solve the challenge ahead: Feeding the 9 billion people who will be on our planet by the year 2050. To put the number in perspective, when Dr. Borlaug was born 100 years ago, there were about 1.8 billion people on the planet.
The Iowa Youth Institute connects students interested in science, agriculture and related fields with Iowa leaders and innovators on the cutting edge of science and research. Each participating high school student wrote a research paper on a key issue that impacts hunger in another a country, such as water scarcity or gender inequality. The students propose their own solutions in small-group roundtable discussions facilitated by academic and industry experts, and students and teachers also participate in hands-on “immersion” activities in research facilities and labs at Iowa State University.
This year marks the third anniversary of the Iowa Youth Institute, and the 20th anniversary of the very first World Food Prize youth program, the Global Youth Institute.