Yesha Patel represents Michigan at 2016 World Food Prize Global Youth Institute

Six outstanding youth leaders were selected to represent Michigan at the Global Youth Institute, where they shared their global hunger fighting research and ideas. This series highlights their stories.

Yesha Patel (left) with 2016 World Food Prize Laureate Jan Low at the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute. Photo: Diana Johns.

Yesha Patel (left) with 2016 World Food Prize Laureate Jan Low at the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute. Photo: Diana Johns.

Many high school students might not have ever considered the relationships of genetically modified crops, the effects of climate change, women’s empowerment and education. One youth from Dearborn Heights, Michigan, is making these connections by engaging in learning about and addressing critical issues related to these global food security factors. Yesha Patel, a senior at Crestwood High School, traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 12-15, 2016, to participate in the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute, where she shared her research and recommendations for addressing global food insecurity with peers and experts from around the world.

The World Food Prize was founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug to recognize and inspire great achievements in improving the quality, quantity and availability of food in the world. This year’s World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium focused on the theme “Let Food Be Thy Medicine” and gave special emphasis on issues such as the crucial role of nutrition in global food security, leadership, biofortification, conflict and infrastructure. Global Youth Institute students and teachers had the opportunity to take part in symposium sessions with the top minds and foremost leaders in global agriculture, food and development.

Patel was selected as one of Michigan’s youth delegates to the 2016 World Food Prize after writing a research paper on the topic of climate volatility in Bangladesh and presenting her research at the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute, which was held on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, on May 12, 2016. The World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute is a pre-college program that engages Michigan youth as active global citizens in understanding and solving global food security challenges and provides an opportunity to explore academic and career pathways, which can contribute to ending global hunger and malnutrition. The World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute is coordinated by Michigan 4-H in partnership with the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, MSU Extension, Michigan FFA and the World Food Prize Foundation.

Patel decided to participate in the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute because the opportunity to speak with experts on food security at MSU appealed to her.

“I was excited to write a research paper and be able to present my research at MSU,” she said. Patel says she finds the topics of GMOs, climate change and women’s empowerment interesting because she believes “they are the most crucial to helping solve the issues of global food security.”

Based on the quality of her research paper and presentation at in the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute, Patel was selected to attend the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute as one of Michigan’s six youth delegates attending the international symposium. At the 2016 World Food Prize Global Youth Institute, Patel joined over 200 other outstanding high school students and mentors from 31 U.S. states and foreign countries for an exciting three-day program to interact with Nobel and World Food Prize Laureates and the more than 1,500 global leaders from 60 countries attending the World Food Prize’s 2016 Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium. Patel and the other World Food Prize Global Youth Institute delegates learned about innovative, impactful and cutting edge topics related to global food security and nutrition by attending presentations and panel discussions led by global leaders in international development, policy, science and industry.

At the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute, youth delegates also toured world-renowned research facilities, packed meals for Haiti disaster relief efforts, participated in an Oxfam America Hunger Banquet and networked with other young people who share an interest in addressing topics related to global food security. Delegates were also able to watch the 2016 World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony, where the 2016 World Food Prize laureates Maria Andrade, Howarth Bouis, Jan Low and Robert Mwanga were honored for their work in “the development and implementation of biofortification, breeding critical vitamins and micronutrients into staple crops, thereby dramatically reducing malnutrition, stunting and ‘hidden hunger’ for millions.” Through the combined efforts of the four laureates, over 10 million people are now positively impacted by biofortified crops, with a potential of several hundred million more having their nutrition and health enhanced in the coming decades.

Patel described her time as a 2016 delegate to the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute as “a life changing experience that changes your perspective on food and the world forever.”

“You get to meet global leaders, youth from around the world, try new foods, grow as a person, and be well on your way to help in the fight against world hunger, all in a few days,” she said.

Yesha Patel (2nd from right) with President Joyce Banda (former president of Malawi)

Yesha Patel (second from right) with President Joyce Banda (former president of Malawi).

One of the most impactful experiences for Patel at the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute was participating in an Oxfam America Hunger Banquet, where she and other delegates experience a simulation of the real world distribution of wealth and food across the planet. “Although I knew of the conditions that others have to face around the world, sitting on the floor and eating plain rice out of my bare hands will be ingrained in my mind forever,” said Patel.

Patel believes it is very important for teens to be engaged as active citizens in addressing global issues. “Although making a difference in one’s own community is what can be done first, going beyond and helping people of other countries and cultures can show us that there is more to the world than what we have experienced,” she says. “I never believed that I could make important contributions to the world until I tried to connect to others and find opportunities to make a difference.”

Patel’s advice to other youth who want to make a positive difference in the world: “Don’t be afraid to step up and state your opinions or work towards something you believe in.”

Patel plans to continue her engagement in topics relate to global food security following her participation in the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute. “I would like to reintroduce community gardens to get local citizens involved and educate them about food availability in the community,” she says. “I definitely will continue my efforts towards improving agriculture and food security as I finish high school and go on to college. I hope to travel around the world and help to improve food security conditions.”

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just idealistic thinking from a teenager; next summer, Patel is hoping to complete a Borlaug-Ruan International Internship. The prestigious Borlaug-Ruan International Internship program, run by the World Food Prize Foundation, “provides high school students an all-expenses-paid, eight-week, hands-on experience, working with world-renowned scientists and policymakers at leading research centers around the globe.”

The next World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute will be May 11, 2017, at MSU. Visit the Michigan 4-H website to learn more about the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, civic engagement, citizenship and global/cultural programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders. Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H positively impacted individuals and communities in 2015 can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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