Prized Partnership Opens World of Opportunity

As home to the World Food Prize, Des Moines, Iowa, has been at the center of the Green Revolution to end hunger and improve the global food supply for nearly 30 years. The World Food Prize honors the work of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

The Prize, created by Iowa native Norman Borlaug, recognizes contributions in any field involved in the world food supply— food and agriculture science and technology, manufacturing, marketing, nutrition, economics, poverty alleviation, political leadership and the social sciences.

Borlaug’s vision expanded in 1994
 to include the “Borlaug Dialogue”—an international symposium bringing together top minds to engage with high school and college students to explore career paths. With respected programs in agriculture,
a foundation in science and close proximity, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State began to partner with the Prize in 2012 hosting youth programs as part of its Iowa Youth Institute.

“The World Food Prize Youth Institutes are designed to encourage participants to stretch their thinking
 to address a global food challenge and consider careers in agriculture,” says Jacob Hunter (’11 agriculture and life sciences education), director of World Food Prize Iowa education programs. “The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is home to many of the programs Borlaug was looking to promote to youth. Working with Iowa State is a natural partnership that gives our participants access to global experts right here in central Iowa.”

Cited as the only youth programs of their kind, the World Food Prize Youth Institutes originating in Iowa have since been modeled in 15 states across the country.

Participation is based on competitive selection. High school students write an essay on a world issue. Topics range from sustainable agriculture and international trade, to biofuels and malnutrition, among others. The essays are judged on the quality of their analyses of food security factors and how to improve lives in the selected country. Participants are invited to Iowa State University to discuss their paper with experts, many of whom are Iowa State University faculty, staff or alumni. The event also includes immersion sessions hosted by Iowa State showcasing research currently underway to address global food challenges.

In 2016 nearly 300 high school students participated from 125 high schools. More than 150 volunteers from Iowa State University, area agribusinesses and Iowa State alumni collaborate to mentor participants at the institute.

“During their time on campus participants are introduced to faculty experts working in their areas of interest,” says Andy Zehr, director of marketing and recruitment in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “We value these connections as they help high school students get a feel for Iowa State and the opportunities available to them in the college.”

Participants are awarded a $500 scholarship to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences upon completion of the institute of food in the world.