Omari Garrett represents Michigan at 2016 World Food Prize Global Youth Institute

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

Omari Garrett at the 2016 World Food Prize Global Youth Institute.
Omari Garrett at the 2016 World Food Prize Global Youth Institute.

What could be done to help address water and sanitation issues in the country of India? Through his participation in a program led by Michigan 4-H, one high school student from Highland Park, Michigan, has come up with some great ideas, and recently traveled to an international symposium where he shared his ideas with other youth and esteemed experts from around the world. Omari Garrett, a senior at Detroit Edison Public School Academy Early College of Excellence in Detroit, Michigan, traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 12-15, 2016, to participate in the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute, where he shared his research and recommendations for addressing critical issues related to global food security.

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 “Let Food Be Thy Medicine” and gave special emphasis on issues such as the crucial role of nutrition in global food security, leadership, biofortification, conflict and infrastructure. 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 development.

Garrett was selected as one of Michigan’s youth delegates to the 2016 World Food Prize after writing a research paper on the topic of water and sanitation in India. He presented his 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 12, 2016. 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.

Garrett decided to participate in the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute as he saw the program as “an unparalleled opportunity to discuss issues critically affecting global food security with people in my educational cohort.”

Based on the quality of his research paper and presentation at in the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute, Garrett was selected to attend the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute as one of Michigan’s six youth delegates attending the international symposium. At the 2016 World Food Prize Global Youth Institute, Garrett 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 2016 Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium.

At the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute, youth delegates toured world-renowned research facilities, packed meals for Haiti disaster relief efforts, 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 2016 World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony, where the 2016 World Food Prize laureates Maria Andrade, Howarth Bouis, Jan Low and Robert Mwanga were honored for their work in “the development and implementation of biofortification, breeding critical vitamins and micronutrients into staple crops, thereby dramatically reducing malnutrition, stunting and ‘hidden hunger’ for millions.” Through the combined efforts of the four laureates, over 10 million people are now positively impacted by biofortified crops, with a potential of several hundred million more having their nutrition and health enhanced in the coming decades.

One of the most impactful experiences for Garrett at the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute was hearing experts from across the world speak about global food security. “The Borlaug Dialogue speakers offered much insight into the issues that I am interested in,” said Garrett.

One notable speaker for Garrett was Joyce Banda, the former president of Malawi, who spoke about women’s access to farming and healthcare in Africa. “These things spoke to me in that they furthered my understanding of food security as a multifaceted issue that can be engaged from multiple angles,” reflected Garrett.

Garrett sees potential positive impacts when youth become active, engaged citizens in learning about and addressing global issues, but also thinks it’s important for young people to know their local community.

“Being a ‘global thinker’ can be effective in coalition building to further movements across national boundaries, or conceptualizing solutions to the plight of different communities within the global community,” he said. “Having knowledge about the ways different groups across the world discuss and think of ideas and problems is helpful, but I think in maintaining a global perspective, we often lose sight of the plight of our own community and what is important at home and adopt a xenocentric view.”

Garrett thinks that conducting research is a good place to start for youth who want to make a positive difference in the world. “Learn as much as possible about the issues you want to solve,” he advises. “Do a great deal of reading of literature close and far from the topic you’re interested in to obtain a broad understanding.”

The next World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute will be May 11, 2017, at MSU. 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, civic engagement, citizenship and global/cultural programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders. Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H positively impacted individuals and communities in 2015 can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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