Urged to Action
“It would probably be easier if I could just end my life...I can’t pay these debts,” Depak uttered during my first focus-group interview as a 2014 Borlaug-Ruan International Intern. I found myself 8,000 miles outside of my comfort zone when I stepped from the plane in rural India only to hear statements like these from farmers who struggled to make ends meet. As an intern, I was surrounded daily by stories of smallholder farmers struggling to feed a family, just like Depak.
Through the World Food Prize Foundation, I had the opportunity to work within developing communities to identify weaknesses in agricultural productivity through strategic data collection and focus-group discussions, viewing first-hand what men, women and children were facing in their fight against food insecurity. Since my time in India, I have had the opportunity to travel to areas of intense hunger and poverty in the world, pushing me to pursue a career addressing this problem.
Thousands of miles away, in a rural Arkansas community, I had grown up inside a bubble of comfort, shielded from a large world of injustice. Because of Dr. Borlaug’s legacy of engaging youth in this quest to feed the world, I was exposed to a world of intense struggles, but at the same time, I was shown a world full of hope and opportunities. In 2013, I attended the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute as a representative from Arkansas. Little did I know, the experience would change my life forever. The leaders and advocates that I’ve had the chance to meet because of my association to Dr. Borlaug have inspired me to a commit myself to a life of public service.
Every day, my World Food Prize experience impacts my life. Most recently, I was named a 2017 Truman Scholar. Throughout the Truman application process, I was proud to share my experience interning in India and how those interactions and instances of injustice, to this day, urge me to act. Since 2013, I have returned to Des Moines to assist with the Global Youth Institute as a group leader and coordinator. Without a doubt, it is the highlight of my year to share my experiences with emerging leaders that are beginning their journey of service just as I did a few years ago. In 2015, I sat around a small circle to talk with Chelsea Clinton about engaging women in agriculture and leadership roles to alleviate food insecurity across the world.
Since, I have had numerous opportunities to engage and share my ideas with global leaders that are working to address hunger and malnutrition. Dr. Borlaug once said, “Almost certainly, the first essential component of social justice is adequate food for all mankind. Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world. Yet today 50 percent of the world’s population goes hungry. Without food, man can live at most but a few weeks; without it, all other components of social justice are meaningless . . . If you desire peace, cultivate justice, but at the same time cultivate the fields to produce more bread, otherwise there will be no peace.”
It’s undeniable that the World Food Prize has changed my life and has been a formative experience for me and other students from across much of the world by making Dr. Borlaug’s vision come true through hands-on experiences feeding the world. The World Food Prize family and its partners continually opens my eyes to a world full of issues and spurs me to take action by serving others using the skills and the passions that I have. For that, I will be forever thankful.