World Food Prize inspires youth to join next generation of global hunger fighters

World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute engages youth in decreasing hunger, malnutrition and human suffering around the world.

Statistics reflecting the current state of global hunger and food security offer a sobering account of the experience of people around the world and their daily struggle for sustenance. According the United Nations World Food Program, “795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That's about one in nine people on earth.” Most of these people living with hunger come from developing countries, which is defined by the World Bank as a country “in which the majority lives on far less money – with far fewer basic public services – than the population in highly industrialized countries.”

Of those developing countries, Asia has the most hungry people – 490 million people according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – and Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest percentage of population living with hunger – 23 percent of the population according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Also, according to the United Nations World Food Program, almost half (45 percent) of deaths in children under 5 years are caused by poor nutrition, making hunger and insufficient nutrition the leading threat to health globally. While the prevalence of hunger in the United States is significantly lower than in many other countries – less than 5 percent according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – many young people from the U.S. are motivated to help increase global food access and security and improve the lives of those facing hunger and malnutrition.

The study, teaching, outreach and application of knowledge related to agriculture and food at Michigan State University is an incredibly significant endeavor. As a land-grant institution with a mission of extending and sharing knowledge, MSU Center for Global Connections is a leader in addressing global hunger and food security. MSU Extension plays a key role in disseminating agricultural knowledge to the citizens of Michigan, and through a partnership between MSU Extension the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Michigan 4-H, Michigan FFA and the World Food Prize, MSU Extension educators seek to engage high school-aged Michigan youth as leaders in addressing global food security.

The World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute, scheduled for May 12, 2016, on the MSU campus in East Lansing, Michigan, will provide Michigan youth with the opportunity to share their ideas related to global food security with MSU experts and other Michigan youth. Participants will also learn how MSU faculty, staff, researchers and students are working to increase global food security.

The World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute seeks to inspire young people to pursue education that will allow them to apply their passion for ending hunger in impactful careers related to global food security. The World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute is inspired and modeled from the Iowa Youth Institute, which was envisioned by Norman Borlaug along with John Ruan, in 1994. Borlaug, often referred to as the “Father of the Green Revolution,” was a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. According to the World Food Prize, Borlaug’s research and development of new varieties of wheat and improved crop management practices in the 1940s and 50s helped to prevent significant global hunger, and it is said that Borlaug “saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived.”

Borlaug established the World Food Prize, which is often referred to as the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture” in 1986 to “highlight and inspire breakthrough achievements in improving the quality, quantity and availability of food in the world”, according the World Food Prize website. The prize is awarded annually to World Food Prize laureates whose work to end hunger in the world spans a wide variety of topics and disciplines. Borlaug also helped establish an annual international symposium that brings together experts from around the world to focus on solutions to ending hunger, and he helped establish youth programs to inspire the next generation of hunger fighters.

The Michigan Youth Institute, along with other state-based World Food Prize youth programs, seeks to inspire youth to conduct research on a key food security factor in a developing country and make connections with other youth and experts to explore their research and opportunities for helping to end hunger. The top performing students from each state-based institute are selected to attend the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute in Des Moines, Iowa, which is held in conjunction with the Norman E. Borlaug International Symposium. Youth attending the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute interact with Nobel and World Food Prize laureates, and have the opportunity to participate in dialogues with the world’s leading experts and policy makers in the area of global food security. Participants in state-based institutes and the Global Youth Institute also become eligible for all-expense paid internship opportunities working alongside cutting-edge researchers in the United States and overseas.

The 2016 World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute will be held May 12 on the MSU campus. Youth and their teachers or other adult mentors can learn more about participating by visiting the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute website. The deadline to register is April 8, 2016, at which time youth participants must submit their completed research paper.

For more information on the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute, contact your local MSU Extension 4-H staff or the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute coordinators: Makena Schultz at or 517-432-7603, or me, Brian Wibby, at or 906-475-5731.

Did you find this article useful?