Six Michigan youth represent state at 2016 World Food Prize

Six extraordinary youth leaders were selected to represent Michigan at the 2016 World Food Prize, where they discussed food security and challenges in the agriculture industry.

Six Michigan youth traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, in October to discuss issues of food security and challenges in the agriculture industry. The youth were among international experts and student leaders from around the world at the three-day World Food Prize (WFP) Global Youth Institute (GYI). World Food Prize GYI was created so that some of America’s brightest and most passionate youth could explore possible solutions to address poverty, hunger and food access.

The 2016 WFP GYI delegates were Nathan Laurenz, of Midland County; Andrew Smith and Kaylee Weise, Muskegon County; Pearl Daskam, Sanilac County; and Omari Garrett and Yesha Patel, Wayne County. Accompanied by their mentors, they spent a few days in mid-October at the WFP GYI interacting with 400 other exceptional high school students from across the United States as they presented their research findings and discussed a matter of great importance: food security. During their stay in Iowa, the delegates were able to connect with leaders, discuss global challenges, and tour cutting-edge industrial and research facilities.

“This program connects industry leaders with the leaders of tomorrow to share their expertise on global issues,” said Kelly Millenbah, associate dean and director of academic and student affairs at the Michigan State University (MSU) College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). “It’s exciting to have six strong youth attend from our state who were able to help show the rest of the world the kind of passion and intelligence found in Michigan’s youth.”

The WFP was established in 1986 by Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug to honor the achievements of those addressing the issues of food security and food access on a global level. To motivate youth to take an active interest in the same critical issues, Borlaug established the GYI to include young people in conversations and efforts around these important topics. Every year, youth compete for an opportunity to attend the event by attending qualifying WFP programming in various states. The Michigan delegates who attended the 2016 institute were first part of the WFP Michigan Youth Institute (MIYI)  at MSU May 12.

“This was the second year that Michigan hosted a qualifying event for the WFP,” said Brian Wibby, MSU Extension 4-H educator and co-facilitator of the event. “We were excited to see the program grow more than 200 percent and to have so many outstanding youth who are interested in addressing critical issues of global food security.”

The 2016 WFP MIYI was sponsored by MSU Extension, Michigan 4-H, the CANR and Michigan FFA. Youth in grades 8-12 interested in topics related to global food security and food access were invited to attend, and this year 29 youth and 11 mentors took part. Prior to the event, youth researched a developing country and key factors that affect food security there. Each student  then wrote a research paper outlining his/her findings and recommendations to overcome the issue. At the event in May, the students presented their research in a roundtable format for their peers and local MSU experts -- MSU faculty members, community experts and Michigan 4-H youth development professionals.  At the conclusion of the event, the panel of experts met to  determine which top performing youth would be selected as WFP MIYI delegates.

“Participating in MIYI changed my perspective on life and showed me how I can make a difference in the world,” said Yesha Patel, one of the 2016 WFP GYI delegates. “Being given the opportunity to share my research about improving food security with experts is what I enjoy the most. I never believed that I could make such important contributions to the world until I was able to talk to other youth who are equally involved.”

For more information about the WFP MIYI, visit

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