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February 25, 2013

Institute gives students global perspective on hunger

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Indiana high school students studying to help end world hunger can compete at Purdue University in April to earn a place among their peers at an international symposium organized by the World Food Prize Foundation.

The Global Youth Institute program allows students to research topics related to food insecurity and present their findings at a state and global level and in front of audiences of educators, scientists, researchers, experts and fellow students.

In Indiana, students will begin by attending the World Food Prize Youth Institute at Purdue University, home of World Food Prize laureates Philip E. Nelson in 2007 and Gebisa Ejeta in 2009. The World Food Prize often is referred to as the "Nobel Prize of Agriculture."

The state-level program is open at no cost for ninth- through 12th-graders who research and write a paper on a topic related to food security in developing countries under the guidance of one of their teachers, who serves as a mentor. Students will present their research to their peers during the Purdue symposium, and the top five participants will be chosen as Indiana's delegates to the Global Youth Institute in October in Des Moines, Iowa, where the World Food Prize Foundation is based.

The required research meets Indiana state educational standards, serves as a class project and enables the students to gain a perspective unmatched by few of their peers, said Donna Keener, academic coordinator for Purdue’s Department of Food Science.

"The World Food Prize Youth Institute at Purdue is a unique opportunity for students and their mentor teachers to come together to interact with experts on global food security issues," Keener said. "The research project leading up to the event is a chance for students to reach understanding beyond their own community and life experiences toward the complexities and urgency of feeding our world population, which takes students to a level of understanding far beyond most of their peers."

Students selected to attend the Global Youth Institute become eligible for the Borlaug-Ruan International Internships, which are all-expenses-paid trips that give students the chance to work with a leading researcher at an international research station for eight weeks.

Purdue food science student Molly McKneight of Carmel, Ind., who received a Borlaug-Ruan International Internship in 2010, says the experience changed her life. McKneight spent eight weeks at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Ankara, Turkey, where she worked alongside researchers studying wheat's resistance to soil-borne pathogens.

"My experiences with the World Food Prize Foundation have made a significant impact on my life and the path I envision for myself," said McKneight, who now is studying in Scotland and has also worked in Haiti and Senegal. "I still keep in contact with my fellow 2010 interns, and it is really neat to see the incredible work that my peers are doing all over the world. The World Food Prize really does change lives and produce outstanding agents of change."

Additionally, students chosen for the Global Youth Institute can apply for U.S. Department of Agriculture Wallace-Carver Internships when they enter college. The paid summer internships give students the opportunity to work at USDA research centers across the country.

Students interested in registering for the World Food Prize Youth Institute at Purdue must select a country from a list and write a 4-5-page paper on one topic related to food insecurity in that country under the guidance of their mentor. Students also will prepare a 3-5-minute presentation on their topic, which they will present at the institute.

To register, visit http://www.worldfoodprize.org/index.cfm?nodeID=30763&audienceID=1. Papers and registration are due by March 8.

Writer: Jessica Merzdorf, 765-494-8402, jmerzdor@purdue.edu

Sources: Donna Keener, 765-494-2766, dlkeener@purdue.edu

Molly McKneight, mmckneig@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson, robins89@purdue.edu
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