Discovering the Shared Language of Service
Alana Platte’s interest in global issues was ignited as a junior in high school, in Fairbank, Iowa. She was invited to participate in the World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute at Iowa State. As a participant, she was asked to write a research paper about a country and a topic of her choice. The topic she chose was malnutrition; the country: Haiti.
Platte, now a senior at Iowa State, majoring in both global resource systems (GRS) and nutritional science says, “My interest in health and nutrition is because I’m really baffled by the challenge of this growing population, expected to reach over 9 billion by the year 2050, and how we’re going to feed people.”
Since that first introduction to global issues, Platte has explored health and nutrition issues in Guatemala, Brazil and Jordan. Thanks to the generous support of donors, Platte has funded her education completely through scholarships. The Robert L. Skinner Endowed Scholarship, the Elinor L. Fehr and Walter R. Fehr Endowed Scholarship, the Todd and Lori Hall Scholarship and the Global Resource Systems Major Fund are among the scholarships that have helped Platte fuel her education at home and abroad.
In the summer of 2016, a Borlaug-Ruan International Internship with the World Food Prize took her to Guatemala for eight weeks to work for The Center for Studies of Sensory Impairment, Aging and Metabolism, a non-profit organization dedicated to nutrition research and education. Platte’s research at primary schools was to measure the head, neck and waist of children under the age of 12. Afterwards, she compared those measurements to standards of health.
During the second half of her internship, Platte conducted a likeability test, adding whey protein to a popular breakfast drink.
“The thought was, if mothers consumed this drink with added whey protein they would pass protein onto their infants through their breast milk,” Platte says.
Platte found Guatemala interesting and the language somewhat challenging. She had studied Spanish in high school and a little in college. She did fine, but made a few inaccurate translations. For example, she took cold showers for two weeks before her host mother told her the “C” on the faucet did not represent the word “cold.” Rather, it meant “caliente,” which is Spanish for hot.
“I was in the third week of the first research study when the translator told me I had been saying a word wrong the whole time. I thought I was telling the children, ‘I’m going to measure your waist.’ But, I was really saying, ‘I’m going to measure your seat belt,’” Platte says. “Every time I would say that, the little kids would start giggling.”
In the spring of 2018, the college’s Global Food and Agriculture travel course took her to Brazil for two weeks to explore some of the complex issues surrounding food and agriculture systems there including soy, corn, sugar, coffee and bananas.
“This was unique to me,” says Platte. “I grew up in a rural town, but I didn’t know much about the production of different agricultural products.”
She observed the cultural differences, too, “the food, the vibrant colors and the public expressions of love for family.”
The following year, Platte applied for a 10-week internship with Cargill. She was accepted and sent to Amman, Jordan, in the summer of 2019, to conduct research with Cargill Animal Nutrition.
“The project was really interesting because in that region they offer products for poultry, dairy and ruminants. With population trends and the increase of aquaculture production, Cargill wanted to see if they should be producing feed for aquaculture,” Platte says. “I wasn’t just looking at Jordan, but in all countries throughout the Middle East. I presented my findings to Cargill and made recommendations of countries where I thought they should be doing sales for aquaculture feed.”
In Jordan, Platte also had the opportunity to do a lot of “cool touristy” things. She floated in the salty Dead Sea, went scuba diving in the Red Sea and was awed by rock-cut architecture in Petra, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.
AT HOME IN THE U.S.
Inspired by the actions of her parents, Platte has had a long-time commitment to community service. One example is her service through Iowa State’s Oxfam Club, which conducts activities to expose students to the inequalities of food security found throughout the world. Platte has served as president and vice president. During her time with the club, she has led club recruitment efforts and various awareness events, including hunger banquets, a food drive and the Oxfam Jam, where local artists perform.
Academic adviser Maggie Sprecher, who advises the Oxfam club, says, “Alana is super organized, highly motivated, highly intelligent and, I know it sounds cliché, but she’s always been passionate about food security, hunger and equal rights.”
In the spring of 2020, Platte will spend a semester in Uganda at Iowa State’s Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods’ nutrition education centers.
“I’m really excited. I’m not sure quite what to expect, but I’ve heard a lot of good things from students who have gone in the past. I think it’s going to be a great way to end my career at Iowa State.”
Platte has accepted a position with Cargill Animal Nutrition in Kansas City, Kansas, as a management associate. Soon after graduation, she will begin a 24- to 30-month training program to identify her best-suited permanent position with Cargill. Platte’s long-term goal is to improve the public health and nutrition, while working for an organization that provides services in the U.S. and other countries.
“I think it’s really important to recognize that a lot of these world issues are also happening in our own communities,” says Platte.
CONNECT. ENGAGE. SHARE.