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Two ACES students attend Global Food Security Symposium 2018 in Washington, D.C.

Published May 8, 2018
Emely Lopez participates in the "Youth Perspectives" panel.

Reflections submitted by Emely Lopez, a PhD candidate in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition

“Youth for Growth” was the focus of the 6th Global Food Security Symposium of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs where another ACES student (Xavier Morgan) and I had the honor of being part of the Next Generation Delegation 2018. Twenty-seven passionate students from around the globe designed solutions related to agriculture, nutrition, policy, technology, and international development. This year's delegation had the largest pool of applicants, with more than 800 applications submitted from 364 universities and 90 countries.

As the tittle implies, youth was the focus of this event. We face a period of time where we have the largest growing young population, concentrated mainly in developing countries, and this phenomenon forces us to find sustainable solutions to their growing food and nutritional demands.

I had the honor to share the stage with four inspiring individuals to speak about my experience growing up in Latin America, studying at Zamorano University, and my research to improve the nutritional status of developing countries. The challenge that often comes to my mind and in conversations with colleagues is how to feed 9 billion people in the next 25 years. At the symposium we had the chance to interact with the experts that currently lead the efforts to solve this issue.

We hear about this problem often and think about it narrowly. In this age of our evolution and time, maybe we need to start thinking holistically.

In my experience, working with diverse teams has brought the best stories of success. Two years ago I traveled to the Philippines (for the first time), with a team composed of majors in international businesses, food science, nutrition, policy, and rural development. This 2-week research led to the proposal of a vehicle for iron fortification to reduce iron deficiency anemia in the region.

In a similar fashion, I recently partnered with computer scientists, designers, and business individuals to create a digital platform to connect leading STEM companies to highly skilled refugees, thus providing fair and adequate employment opportunities to at-risk populations fleeing their countries involuntarily due to civil unrest and violence.  Our project won the first place in the Campus 1871 Start-Up competition.

On the stage of the symposium, we had a rich conversation with the Founder and CEO of AgriCorps, Trent McKnight, who was very energetic and inspiring about his initiative. Three fellow Next Generation Delegates (Neeti Nayak, Oyewale Abioye, and Longwen Chiang) also shared their perspectives on how to bring positive impact to the agricultural challenges of our generation.

All of the 27 selected individuals came from different countries and had different backgrounds and experiences; this was the biggest strength of the Next Generation Delegation: our diversity. We were able to sustain rich conversations about the topic, as well as talk about our ideas and challenge them from all of our angles. The best part is the everlasting friendship and collaborations that came from meeting these talented and passionate individuals. This program taught me a lot and filled me up with great motivation to keep doing what I do. The world challenges not only need good will for a good cause, but also talent, strategy, partnership, diversity, and motivation to attain sustainability.

Emely's advisors include Dr. William Helferich, Dr. Juan Andrade, and Dr. Nicki Engeseth.