Neha Middela represents Michigan at 2017 World Food Prize Global Youth Institute

The 2017 Michigan Youth Institute selected three outstanding youth leaders to represent Michigan at the Global Youth Institute where they shared their global hunger fighting research and ideas. This series highlights their stories.

Neha Middela at the 2017 World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute.
Neha Middela at the 2017 World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute.

Neha Middela, a junior from the International Academy in Bloomfield Heights, Michigan, traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 18-21, 2017, to participate in the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute, where she shared her research and recommendations for addressing global food security with peers and experts from the U.S. and around the world.

The World Food Prize was founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug to recognize and inspire great achievements in improving the quality, quantity and availability of food in the world. This year’s World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium focused on the theme “The Road out of Poverty” and gave special emphasis on the “entrepreneurial spirit of farmers, and the ability of agriculture to provide health, wealth and stability at the personal level and at the international level,” according to the World Food Prize. Global Youth Institute students and teachers had the opportunity to take part in symposium sessions with the top minds and foremost leaders in global agriculture, food, and international development.

Middela was selected as one of Michigan’s youth delegates to the 2017 World Food Prize Global Youth Institute after writing a research paper on the topic of good governance in India. She presented her research at the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute, which was held on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, on May 11, 2017. The World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute is a pre-college program that engages Michigan youth as active global citizens in understanding and solving global food security challenges and provides an opportunity to explore academic and career pathways, which can contribute to ending global hunger and malnutrition. The World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute is coordinated by Michigan 4-H in partnership with the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, MSU Extension, Michigan FFA and the World Food Prize Foundation.

“I have always wanted to contribute or participate in solutions to global problems, such as ensuring food security, education and access to healthcare,” said Middela. “I was drawn to the idea of writing a research paper outlining my solution to a particular food security issue, and spending a day at MSU learning from experts in the field about food security and possible career prospects within fields associated with food security.”

Middela researched the country of India for her paper and made recommendations regarding the connection between corruption and food security in the country. She has identified a variety of different ways India could address corruption as it related to food security, including increasing oversight, shifting ownership of ration shops from private to cooperative systems, and increasing civic engagement of the country’s citizens. She sees much promise in solutions that are based on alleviating poverty and those that focus on change at the local level.

At the 2017 World Food Prize Global Youth Institute, Middela joined over 200 other outstanding high school students and mentors from 31 U.S. states and foreign countries for an exciting three-day program to interact with Nobel and World Food Prize laureates and the more than 1,500 global leaders from 60 countries attending the World Food Prize’s 2017 Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium.

Middela and the other World Food Prize Global Youth Institute delegates learned about innovative, impactful and cutting edge topics related to global food security and nutrition by attending presentations and panel discussions led by global leaders in international development, policy, science and industry.

“The Global Youth Institute taught me that responses to global challenges such as food security in the modern era are the result of partnerships between key organizations,” said Middela. “The World Food Prize Global Youth Institute allows high school students to view the problem of food security through the lens of prominent scientists, world leaders, smallholder farmers, founders of nonprofits, among other changemakers integral to this global movement.”

At the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute, youth delegates toured world-renowned research facilities, participated in an Oxfam America Hunger Banquet and networked with other young people who share an interest in addressing topics related to global food security. Delegates were also able to watch the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony, where the 2017 World Food Prize laureate, Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, was awarded his prize. According the World Food Prize, Adesina was awarded the 2017 World Food Prize for his accomplishments related to his “life’s mission to promote agriculture, good nutrition, and education as the keys to uplifting millions out of poverty” in Africa.

Middela described the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute as “a one of a kind opportunity for high school students to gain a firsthand look into the global movement to ensure food security.” One of the most impactful experiences for Middela at the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute was discovering the interdisciplinary nature of the work being done to address global food security.

“I became aware of how ensuring food security is integral to providing access to education, eliminating poverty, and ensuring a more equitable future for millions of people across the world,” said Middela.

Middela sees a role for herself and other teens in affecting positive change on a global scale. “Affecting change can take many forms, from advocating for or against legislation, writing about issues important to you, to donating resources or time to charitable organizations,” said Middela. “Being conscientious of the world around them will allow teens to impact their local, national and global communities to their fullest extent, both now and in the future.”

After participating in the program, she also sees many career options for young people who are interested in engaging in work around the topic of global food security.

“Leaders in a variety of fields, in the public and private sectors, from scientists to artists to smallholder farmers are integral to ensuring food security,” said Middela. “A diversity of backgrounds, ideas, and abilities are necessary in order to mitigate the various factors that prevent adequate access to food throughout the world.”

Middela’s advice for other teens who want to make a positive difference in the world is “to continually seek out opportunities to learn about or contribute to issues that you are passionate about, whether through looking online, asking teachers or community members, or emailing leaders of nonprofit organizations.”

For Michigan teens in search of an opportunity to learn and engage with others on topics related to global food security, the 2018 World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute is a great option. The 2018 World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute will be held May 10, 2018, at two location in Michigan: the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, and MSU’s Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center in Chatham, Michigan. Visit the Michigan 4-H website to learn more about the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs read our 2016 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016 can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

Did you find this article useful?