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students from florida youth institute summer program at the end of the week banquet

My View: Mobilizing and Empowering Our Communities to End Food Insecurity

By Alfred Koch, junior nutritional sciences major with a minor in food science 

As a University of Florida student studying nutritional sciences and food science in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, I want to help solve food insecurity in our world.

That’s why in October, I left Florida for Des Moines, Iowa, to attend the Global Youth Institute, where I discussed pressing food security and agricultural issues with international experts and my peers from across the world as part of The World Food Prize.

My experience at The World Food Prize showed me that no matter your background, people can come together to make the world a better place. It starts with picking each other up, engaging with one another, empowering our peers, and researching solutions.

At the Global Youth Institute, we were lucky to be a part of Kenneth Quinn’s final year as the president of The World Food Prize Foundation where he has served for 20 years. He provided the high school and college participants some keen life lessons learned during his tumultuous tenure as an ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia and how he settled there despite being offered his dream to be an ambassador to Western Europe.

Quinn shared that he decided to stay as the Rural Development advisor in the Mekong Delta where he linked agricultural endeavors with roads, which transformed the poverty-stricken country. Quinn emphasized how sometimes it is better to take the wrong turn down the right road than to take the normal/easier route.

Takeaways from The World Food Prize

One of my biggest takeaways was the need to connect farmers with adequate infrastructure and the tools necessary for farming. There is a direct link between agricultural production and infrastructure that is very crucial as a mechanism for delivering goods to market. Many rural areas abroad and here in the United States have neglected roads. It is crucial to develop these roads to put more money in the farmer’s pockets and reduce spoilage of food.

Once adequate road systems are developed, it is necessary to provide Extension and research to farmers’ who are struggling.It is the work of Simon Groot, the recipient of the World Food Prize 2019, who exemplified to me what is necessary to eradicate food insecurity. A survivor of the Dutch Famine, Groot knew the importance of having high-quality seeds.

Groot started the East-West Seed partnership that introduced inexpensive, high-quality seeds to new terrains across the globe. This led to new nutritional options for areas lacking in basic vitamins and minerals. Also, it garnered much greater profits for producers. Ushering in the “vegetable revolution,” Groot’s company has continued to develop more programs to advance the production by the world’s farmers. He offers training programs helping to improve farming practices all over the world.

What We Can Do To Help Solve Food Insecurity

Food insecurity is a local and global issue that transcends borders and communities. In my studies and research labs, I’ve learned certain subgroups feel the effects of a disengaged community more than others. Children, pregnant women and the elderly have unique nutritional needs that are frequently not met as a result of governmental, physical and/or economic barriers.

It is up to communities, like students and members of our UF community, to recognize the stigmas associated with nutrient access and food pantries.

One example of a food stigma is the produce waste associated with “ugly” fruits and vegetables. This produce may have a different shape or size but contains the same nutritional value as what we perceive to be cosmetically “normal.” In fact, a 2019 United Nations reportestimates 30-to-40 percent of food in North America that is available for human consumption goes to waste.

To help destigmatize “ugly” fruits and vegetables, try selecting produce that isn’t necessarily the most beautiful, and store it in the freezer to use for a smoothie later. Shop more frequently rather than in bulk to avoid food waste. Plan a potluck with friends or neighbors to combine produce before it expires to create a nutritious meal while making fun memories.

I’ve noticed in our country that there appears to be a collective, apathetic assumption that one person can’t make a difference. This cannot be further from the truth. Food insecurity can only be squashed when every individual community member makes a consistent commitment to supporting this goal, such as volunteering over a long period of time with an organization.

The process of ending world hunger starts right here in our own backyards. It requires time and collective effort from everybody in the community. I recommend contacting your local food pantry (we have one here at UF with the Field & Fork Campus Food Program) and getting involved.

I encourage my peers to get involved in helping to end global food insecurity by empowering others and taking a stand against food insecurity and inaction. Let’s start in our own communities. It’s our future.

The nutritional sciences major encompasses all aspects of the consumption and utilization of food by people and animals as well as how these processes affect the health of individuals and populations. Students study organic chemistry, physics, food science, genetics, nutrition, biology of microorganisms, and diseases. Find a CALS major that suits your interests by taking our majors quiz. You can also find information regarding our undergraduate and graduate programs on our website.

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