Food Security

Getting schooled in world hunger

With their trams’ white canopies shielding them from the summer sun, a cluster of twenty-somethings peer from behind sunglasses as tractors pull them along the fields at Purdue’s Agronomy Center for Research and Education (ACRE). On this microcosm of Indiana farmland where bare soil, crops and prairie grass meet, graduate students are getting schooled in the complexities of world hunger as participants in the annual Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security.

Hosted by the Purdue Center for Global Food Security, the program brings together students from such areas as agronomy, plant pathology, human nutrition, agricultural and biological engineering and economics for field trips, lectures and discussions.

"The goal of the summer institute is to provide these outstanding students with a more holistic understanding of the conceptual challenges around global food security, with a focus on cross-disciplinary approaches in addressing major global development challenges," says Gebisa Ejeta, director of the Center for Global Food Security, distinguished professor of agronomy and 2009 World Food Prize laureate.

Alleviating food hunger isn’t simply about hard science – better soils, more drought resistance, the re-introduction of native plants. It’s also about context and policy. And so students are assigned to interdisciplinary groups to work on country-specific proposals that are judged by Purdue faculty with experience in international development.

“For me, the summer institute drove home the message that research aimed at solving the problems associated with global food security must take a trans-disciplinary approach," says Purdue alumnus Ian Pope, who received a $15,000 after the institute to study the implications of the deforestation of the Guatemalan cloud forest on soil quality. "The collaboration between academia and governmental and non-governmental organizations is critical for us to gain traction in what is arguably one of the most daunting challenges of the 21st century."

See more in these Purdue News Service news releases by Pamela McClure and Keith Robinson:,

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