New York high school students tackle food safety issues at event at Cornell

Forty-six high school students from 17 high schools across New York State descended on the Cornell campus on March 25 to discuss innovative solutions to the challenges of food security and climate change.

The event was organized by the New York Youth Institute (NYYI), a World Food Prize program within the Department of Global Development at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

With 7.9 billion people alive today and rapidly increasing demographic trends, the world’s population is expected to become denser in coming generations, making food security a challenge.

“Today’s youth are going to be grappling with pressing food security challenges, and they are motivated to tackle these issues now,” said Polly Endreny Holmberg, NYYI State Coordinator at the Development Department. global. “The New York Youth Institute challenges students to examine big issues and potential solutions. We are not only curious about what impactful technologies exist to solve problems like hunger, but how these technologies can be implemented. »

Lazim Jarif, a senior at Ithaca High School, inspects a plant grown in a hydroponic system in the Kenneth Post Laboratory greenhouses on campus.

Students delivered three-minute TED-style presentations on solutions to international food security, climate change, and public health challenges while being reviewed by their peers and panels of Cornell experts.

Presentations – including “Protecting the Land and Promoting Sustainable Agricultural Practices in Panama”; “Using sanitation techniques to improve food security in Madagascar”; and “Access to Clean Water and Improving Human Health in Bangladesh” – focusing on issues around the world, as well as issues such as food insecurity in New York.

During the event, dozens of faculty, staff, Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows, and graduate students volunteered to engage with student groups and provide feedback on proposed solutions.

“As children, we will be the ones making global change happen,” said Kira Davenport, a student at Clean Technologies and Sustainable Industries Early College High School. “Having opportunities like the New York Youth Institute allows us to learn, brainstorm creative ideas, and start making things happen.”

Students heard presentations from experts including Ben Houlton, Dean Ronald P. Lynch of CALS; Maricelis Acevedo, Professor of Global Development Research; fellows Humphrey Hazell Flores and Annette Nantumbwe; and Richard Ball, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

“With knowledge and a passion for science, you can have a big impact on global agriculture,” Acevedo said.

To familiarize themselves with university projects and university life, high school students took tours of agricultural projects on campus. Neil Mattson, a professor at the School of Integrative Plant Science, demonstrated research on growing plants without soil in a hydroponics lab; Eugene Won, Senior Research Associate in Animal Science, showed aquaponic systems; the Cornell University Insect Collection exhibited some of its more than 7 million insect specimens; and the Dilmun Hill Student Farm discussed their work and partnerships with Anabel’s, the student grocery store.

“These opportunities to speak with a thought leader or brainstorm an inspiring project for a few moments can give young students the drive and determination to embark on an incredible journey and help their community or world in a way no one could have expected,” Holmberg mentioned.

For William Fenton, a student at John Jay High School in Brooklyn, the experience was profound. “I always knew I wanted to contribute to the world through math and science. The need for food security for humanity really resonated with me,” he said. “I have loved researching, presenting and hearing about the issues currently affecting food sources around the world.”

Jackson Hart, MPS ’22, is the graduate assistant in Cornell’s Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program.

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