Believe, Learn, and Think AgShare
When I think about food insecurity, generally I think about people in the community who are not able to afford fresh food, about people who need the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food and nutrition service; and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). I think about people who don’t have access to clean water and who live on less than one dollar a day. Then on March 21, I represented the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge as an Emerging Leader and met my colleagues in the Next Generation Delegation at the Global Food Security Symposium 2018 in Washington, D.C. Annually, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs convenes to address the U.S. government’s and the international community’s progress on global food security to ensure that new challenges are met with action and innovation. Through this experience, I realized that I was thinking about agriculture on a local level and not necessarily its impact on food security around the globe.
Diverse research generated inspired and meaningful conversation
The symposium delivered powerful and inspiring stories of people working toward food security, in many cases because food insecurity has affected their own lives. Cedric Habiyaremye is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide who lived in a refugee camp and faced true hunger. He is still inspired to do great things and now studies quinoa to bring a more nutritious option to Rwanda. Sarala Morusupalli created an NGO while attending school in India. Her NGO focuses on women’s equality and education. I heard from an animal scientist who worked on plants and even a chemical engineer who creates meats from just mammalian cells. We talked about everything from soil erosion to monocultures to common agricultural products for where we lived, to our shared aspirations to achieve food security. There was a truly diverse group of people carrying out many different types of research. And that allowed for meaningful conversations.
Challenging questions call for discussion
Round-table discussions also made for rich conversation and great questions. For example, as agriculture research is conducted, how can it get into the hands of a farmer rather than remain in a database? How can legislation get passed that benefits not only farmers but also consumers, as well? How can there be less of a deficit in farming? Ideas emerged with no concrete answers, because there are many ways to approach each topic. Many left the conference with the weight and inspiration of the conversations we’ll need to have to make the right changes.
Agriculture’s impact on the way food is made and consumed
We heard stories of hope and belief from those facing adversity. There were panels on investment in food-insecure areas, and the influence chefs have on the agriculture. It's hard to believe sometimes that what a chef uses on his or her menu can change an entire industry. However, it's true! Imagine a major restaurant or fast food chain using select kinds of vegetables. That increases the demand, which drives the need to supply them, which, can have adverse effect on the production of other vegetables. It’s surprising to realize that the choice of menu can have such far reaching consequences.
The need for awareness and action
Food can heavily influence conflict since hunger will drive a person to go to great lengths for food; and social media creates awareness of agriculture because farmers today are more active about sharing their everyday lives. During lunch, I had the opportunity to sit down with the SVP of the affiliated nonprofit Land O'Lakes International Development, John Ellenberger. We had a quick chat on Facebook Live where he interviewed me about my beginnings on agriculture and my work with the Global Food Challenge.
I left the Next Generational Delegation and Global Food Security Symposium with two things to remember in order to make food security possible:
1. If you believe in people, listen to what they have to say and imagine the change it could mean.
2. Create a plan for food security: It will be challenging but it is possible.
Kinnidy Coley is a sophomore studying animal science at North Carolina A&T State University. She hopes to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine in the future and use the degree toward animal health and food security.