The World Food Prize Foundation

World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute Expands, Welcoming Iowa Students From Across the State


Monday marked the 13th annual World Food Prize Foundation Iowa Youth Institute (IYI), where 277 students representing 89 Iowa high schools gathered with 85 educators at Iowa State University to explore pressing global food security challenges and professional opportunities in STEM fields.

“Iowa State University is proud of its longtime partnership with the World Food Prize to provide this premier educational program,” said Wendy Wintersteen, Iowa State University, President. “The Iowa Youth Institute is an opportunity for high school students to connect with Iowa State expertise, resources and scholarships. We are pleased to see how this program ignites students’ passion to help address one of society’s most complex challenges – global food security.

The IYI, a cornerstone of the Foundation’s esteemed youth programs, is dedicated to inspiring the next group of global leaders to pursue influential careers in STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It attains this goal by fostering connections among students, faculty from Iowa State University, and industry professionals with a focus on addressing critical issues in global food security.

"We live in a world where some days it's easy to be hopeless," said Amy Akers, teacher at Southview Middle School. "But this event is so hopeful. I feel the energy of these young changemakers. I hope they walk away feeling empowered by the experts and peers that truly listened to them."

Participating students conduct research on food insecurity within a chosen country, crafting a research essay, and concluding with a personal recommendation for solving the identified problem. During the event, students present their findings to 92 leading experts and faculty members from Iowa State University. Moreover, attendees engage with dynamic speakers in discussions relevant to future careers, spanning health sciences, technology, agriculture, engineering, and policy.

"I think having youth conferences like [the Iowa Youth Institute] is so important to have any sort of change," said Lily Ferguson, a senior at Boone High School. "You think of these incredible individuals doing amazing things, but great change is possible by normal youth like us just coming together."

Each participating student is eligible for a $1,000 scholarship towards Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Exceptional participants from Iowa will also secure a spot working with scientists and policy experts from around the world at the three-day World Food Prize Global Youth Institute in October.

“It’s empowering to see the future champions of food security in action,” said Mashal Husain, Chief Operating Officer, World Food Prize Foundation. “Through events like the Iowa Youth Institute, they are demonstrating their ability to rise to the challenges of the past, the present, and the future.”

The Iowa Youth Institute strives to reach every school in Iowa to encourage students to pursue career paths in science, technology, and policy to help fight world hunger. In 2021, 74% of high schools across Iowa engaged in the Iowa Youth Institute (IYI), making a significant impact on communities statewide. The 2023 Iowa Youth Institute further expanded the program, boasting representation from one-third of Iowa schools.

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