Big turnout for Minnesota Youth Institute’s World Food Prize competition

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 - 2:00pm

The Minnesota Youth Institute World Food Prize competition drew 150 Minnesota high school students to the U’s St. Paul campus on May 15. Land O’Lakes helps to sponsor the competition. Five times as many students as in the past were able to attend this year’s event, according to Mohamed Yakub, Minnesota Youth Institute coordinator.

The competition

Competing students submitted papers that analyzed food security issues in a developing country and proposed potential solutions. While on campus, they presented their papers, exchanged ideas with peers, and met the president of the World Food Bank and other agricultural industry experts.

Students also took part in hands-on activities. This year, they learned how to use drones for crop data collection, identify types of insects and their effects on plants, and perform DNA extractions on plants. In addition, they have the opportunity to earn a $1,000 scholarship to the U.

Bright minds, bright future

Yakub says about half of this year’s participants were first-generation Americans from the Twin Cities. Many of those students wrote about food security issues in their family’s home country.

Typically, the top six students advance to the Global Youth Institute World Food Prize Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa. However, Yakub is working with Land O’Lakes and the Global Youth Institute to send 10 students this fall because of the high quality of their work.

“Getting students excited and thinking about food security issues has changed how I view science. No matter how much we argue today, the world will be OK because these kids are amazing.”

— Mohamed Yakub, Minnesota Youth Institute coordinator

From the ground up

The Minnesota Youth Institute is coordinated by the U’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), with support from Land O'Lakes. CFANS officials are working with Land O’Lakes to create a junior branch of the U’s Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences chapter that would be open to high school students.

photos: College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences