Students Attend Summer Program to Learn How to Solve Global Food Insecurity

While attending a summer camp with the University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), 46 high school students visited the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants and collected water samples to assess clarity and oxygen levels. Professor Ruth Francis-Floyd, shared how factors such as temperature, water depth and presence of photo-synthesizers influence water oxygen levels and consequently impact aquatic animal ecology.

This interactive experience was one of several lessons and activities the students encountered at the Florida Youth Institute (FYI). Open to rising high school juniors and seniors, the week-long program offered twice during July 2019 introduced participants to university life while exploring issues and practices in agriculture and natural resource, and their relationship to global food security. FYI was sponsored by CALS, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and The World Food Prize Foundation.

“We started FYI with the goal of creating an opportunity to connect students to academic programs in CALS that will prepare them for careers in the agricultural and natural resource sciences,” said CALS Dean Elaine Turner. “Each year we are honored to host talented high school students who are eager to work toward solving food insecurity around our world.”

Participants engaged in hands-on activities during visits to the Florida Farm Bureau, FDACS Division of Plant Industry, and several UF/IFAS units including the Field & Fork Farm and Gardens, UF/IFAS Animal Sciences Department research and teaching units, the Suwannee Valley branch of the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center, and the UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department, among others.

In addition to discovering careers in the agricultural and life sciences, students had the opportunity to brainstorm solutions to issues contributing to global food insecurity. A portion of the application process included writing a research paper about a global food security issue in a developing country. At the end of each week, each student participated in a roundtable discussion where they presented their research topics to industry and academic professionals from FDACS, Florida Farm Bureau Federation and UF/IFAS. Six students were selected to attend the Global Youth Institute in October, a prestigious international conference hosted by The World Food Prize Foundation and held annually in Des Moines, Iowa.

The following FYI participants will represent Florida at the Global Youth Institute on Oct. 16:

  • Jeania Bloom-Hudson, a School for Advanced Studies student from Miami, Florida;
  • Maria Duran, a Cypress Bay High School student from Weston, Florida;
  • Libby Putnam, a Bartow High School student from Bartow, Florida;
  • Kavina Peters, an Eastside High School student from Gainesville, Florida;
  • Genesis Johnson, a Lincoln High School student from Tallahassee, Florida;
  • Ashley Weinstein, a Lake Brantley High School student from Altamonte Springs, Florida.

“At the Global Youth Institute, I hope to convey a similar impact on others I meet there as the staff and counselors from UF’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences have had on me,” Putnam said. “My time at one of our state’s most prestigious universities left me feeling blessed. I never go to sleep with an empty stomach, and this ignited a passion in me for fighting for those who never get to experience the type of nutrition so many of us are able to receive.”

During the Global Youth Institute, student delegates will interact with World Food Prize laureates, visit innovative research facilities, participate in team projects and service opportunities, and discuss food security and agricultural issues with international experts. The World Food Prize Foundation recognized all FYI participants as Borlaug Scholars who are now eligible to apply for the prestigious paid Wallace-Carver Fellowship at USDA research centers across the U.S.

On the last day of each week of FYI, CALS presented two participants with scholarships to CALS. The following FYI participants received these renewable scholarships:

  • Maria Duran, a Cypress Bay High School student from Weston, Florida;
  • Libby Putnam, a Bartow High School student from Bartow, Florida;
  • Jesus Hernandez, a Cypress Creek High School student from Orlando, Florida;
  • Miranda Holder, a Riverview High School student from Riverview, Florida.

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