Iowa Hunger Summit, Working Together Towards “One Health”

Leaders from across Iowa, including College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty and staff discuss research and efforts to thwart hunger each October at the annual Iowa Hunger Summit. The day-long conference was established by The World Food Prize several years ago in order to celebrate Iowa’s successes in fighting hunger and poverty and to unite in further action against both.

Participants explore issues of hunger occurring in Iowa and beyond and what various humanitarian organizations, state agencies and local groups are doing to fight hunger.

Experts offer shared vision

Max Rothschild, distinguished animal science professor and international leader in pig genetics, and Hank Harris, one of the world’s foremost authorities on infectious diseases of swine and related pathogens in people, were speakers on a panel, “One Health: Healthy Animals, Healthy People, Healthy Planet” at the 2013 summit.

John Thomson, dean emeritus Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, chaired the panel, which also included James Blessman of Blessman Ministries and Mary Lou Penrith, extraordinary professor of the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

Rothschild has served as the coordinator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pig Genome Mapping project. An active humanitarian both personally and professionally, he volunteers with the Emergency Residence Project and Good Neighbor Emergency Assistance in Ames and is involved with Iowa State’s Sustainable Rural Livelihoods program to help improve the quality of life for people in Uganda. He discussed his work in Uganda leading an effort to improve pig production to increase the amount of protein in people’s diets.

“Hunger, whether it is developing countries around the world or in Iowa, represents a major challenge for all of us in agriculture. It robs people of their dignity and the ability to succeed in life,” says Rothschild. “Livestock, especially in the hands of poor people, and especially female farmers, can help raise their level of food security and provide income to help their families out of poverty and improve their nutrition.”

Harris, one of the founders and a CEO of NOBL Laboratories and founder and CEO of Harrisvaccines, Inc, discussed his research in swine health and developing the next generation of vaccines for animals and humans. Harris developed the first vaccines available in the United States for the pandemic H1N1 virus and for the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDV).

Harris stressed the importance of non-living platform vaccine technologies (those that do not require live viruses) for preparedness in the United States against possible foreign animal diseases.

“These same vaccines will be valuable especially in developing countries for reducing hunger as they help ensure meat supply and safety,” Harris says.

Tomorrow’s global leaders

Kelsey Upah, an Iowa State dietetics student and co-president of the Iowa State Student Dietetics Association, was part of a community nutrition class attending the summit

“In class we explore how different counties in Iowa are dealing with hunger issues,” she says. “The summit gave us insight into what is happening in Iowa, throughout the United States and the world and provided ideas about programs we could implement in our association.”

Catherine Swoboda (’08 agronomy, ’10 MS crop production and physiology) serves as director of Iowa and Midwest Education Programs for The World Food Prize Foundation and organized the summit. She received the Iowa State Alumni Association’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award last fall.

“Iowa State faculty members are spectacular examples of the research and efforts improving access to food and improving the livelihoods of people in our state and around the world,” Swoboda says.

In addition to the annual summit, Swoboda created the Iowa Youth Institute, a joint initiative between the World Food Prize and Iowa State University to encourage high school students to confront global challenges in agriculture and environmental sustainability.

At the institute, which takes place each April, high school students present research and recommendations on how to solve key global challenges. While on campus they interact with global leaders in science, industry and policy during educational sessions and interactive tours. They connect with other students from across Iowa to share ideas and identify solutions while building lasting friendships.

“Iowa State has been an important partner in making the institute a valuable program for future leaders who will help address hunger issues for our growing world,” Swoboda says.