When Andie Pinga ’19 checked her email inbox last August, she could not have been happier. She had been chosen as a student delegate to represent Massachusetts at the annual Global Youth Institute World Food Prize Conference in Des Moines, Iowa.
Beginning on October 13, the three-day-long conference allowed over 400 students to connect with teachers, Nobel Prize laureates, and agronomists to discuss critical problems facing the world in the agriculture and food safety industry.
Pinga said, “The Global Youth Institute runs parallel to the World Food Prize, which is a ceremony for real agronomists and scientists in the ‘food realm.’ The World Food Prize is the Noble Peace Prize for agriculture, so it allows students to go to this conference and experience what it is like to deal with these [agricultural] issues and interact with all these famous people in this line of business.”
To apply, high-school students from around the world were asked to write a research paper about a food security issue of their choice with the help of a teacher or mentor. Pinga chose to write her paper on the dangers of aflatoxins, cancer-causing molds, that contaminate food in Malawi, which earned her a certificate of participation.
Pinga said, “In the spring of my freshman year, I was researching for some programs or jobs to do over the summer, and I managed to stumble upon the Global Youth Institute. I was really interested in the Biology course I was taking and thought it would be a great opportunity to learn more about food insecurity that plagues the world around us.”
In addition to getting her paper signed by the former president of Malawi, Joyce Banda, while at the conference, Pinga also attended a keynote speech by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, met the Minister of Agriculture in Liberia, and conversed with C.E.O.s from the agriculture and farming industries.
“I definitely became more aware of the food insecurity issue in the world. I learned that it’s really an oppressing issue. A lot of people are affected by it, and there’s a lot in the world that we don’t know,” said Pinga.
Attendees were also able to participate in an Oxfam Hunger Banquet. At the banquet, each diner receives a different meal, determined randomly by raffle to represent the way in which people are born into different socioeconomic privilege. Pinga hopes to bring some of her experiences back to Andover by possibly hosting a similar event on campus. The event would raise funds to help support Oxfam’s mission to alleviate global poverty.
“I would just like to raise awareness of the severity of food insecurity in the world. Here at Andover, it’s sometimes tough to look outside and realize our most basic privileges. It was surprising to me how much people were involved in it and so I’m taking those perspectives and relating them to my experiences now. I actually want to pursue this line of work now after this conference. It was very inspiring and overall amazing,” said Pinga.
Pinga said she was more thankful for the opportunity to attend the conference.
“I would definitely encourage other students to participate in this conference. It was such an amazing experience, and [it] completely transformed the way I think and see the world. It sort of exposes you to the problems that they’re trying to fix. The prize was going to the conference and being able to experience it. It was an honor to be there and an honor to represent Massachusetts,” said Pinga.