A pair of Century High School juniors were selected as two of 200 students from around the world to attend a three-day conference in Iowa that brings students and teachers together with experts in national and global hunger and food security.
Bri Muchella-Prata and Marie Walters will travel to Des Moines, on Wednesday, Oct. 16 as delegates from Maryland.
The annual Global Youth Institute, hosted by the World Food Prize Foundation, gives students a chance to “interact with Nobel and World Food Prize Laureates, heads of state, ministers of agriculture, researchers, business executives, and humanitarian leaders from more than 65 countries and discuss pressing food security and agricultural issues with international experts,” according to a news release from Carroll County Public Schools.
To apply, students research and write a paper focused on one country and one challenge.
Muchella-Prata said she chose to research poverty, food insecurity and education in Argentina because she is half-Argentinian. Alongside her other research, she spoke to family members for firsthand opinions on her topic and solutions.
She found that many factors contribute to malnutrition in the country, from low wages to the high cost of private education which many families turn to because of a weak public school system.
Her solutions included hydroponic agriculture in cities, community gardens and creating a pipeline between restaurants and food pantries that would allow them to accept food that would otherwise go to waste.
Walters’ research dealt with Kenya’s need to increase agricultural production in the face of deforestation, soil degradation and climate change. An unpredictable climate and growing population are contributing factors, she found.
She has never visited Kenya, but chose it because “I feel like I just wanted to choose a country that I wanted to learn more about and do something to change.”
She focused on solutions that follow the vein of the proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.”
To her, it was important that the solutions involved skills and methods that Kenyan farmers could implement for themselves instead of needing to rely on outside help.
“Why not teach people to do it for themselves?" Walters said. "And they get so much more out of it, because it’s such a huge thing, being able to step back from what you just accomplished, and say, ‘Wow, I did that. I just finished that.’”
The young women will have just three minutes to present on their topics.
Both decided to write a paper and enter their research after taking classes with agri-science teacher Kimberly Moyer, who will accompany them to the conference.
To prepare for the conference, Moyer has been helping the students review their research papers and prepare to answer questions on their topics.
At the conference in Iowa, Muchella-Prata hopes to get feedback on her presentation and see if it would be possible to put any of her ideas to use.
“I don't know if that could happen, but it would be amazing to see my research in action,” she said.
Walters is excited for the experience to talk to people from all over the world.
Her advice to others?
“If you’re passionate about something like this, then you should go for it, you should take the risk," she said. "Is this even a risk of putting yourself out there and trying to achieve something,especially if it’s something as big as like changing the world with agricultural sustainability. Or even if it’s something smaller, that wouldn’t have as large an impact, because to someone in the world, it’s going to have an impact.”