Students Sound Off on the Feeding the Planet Summit

On day two of the 2015 Feeding the Planet Summit, we asked our consortium students to send us their reactions to the two-day event. Here's what they had to say:

Jordan Killen | Amanda Richey | Liesel Robbins | Sarah Gledhill | Lydia Delahanty

We also heard from students who are part of the Land O'Lakes Global Food Challenge. They attended the Summit as part of their yearlong, global exploration of food, and wrote up their thoughts on some of the key moments of the day:

​Did you attend the Feeding the Planet Summit? We still want to hear from you! Send your short blog on the Summit - what you liked, what you learned, what we can do better, and your ideas for how innovation can move the planet forward and feed the world - to info@planetforward.org and we'll add it.

Jordan Killen, Middlebury College

“Seeing is believing.”  Bob Giacomini’s words are especially meaningful after this week’s Feeding the Planet Summit. Escaping the still-frozen tundra that is Middlebury College for the juicy-green cherry blossom-bursting avenues of our nation’s capital was treat enough; what I didn’t expect to taste during my short journey was such delicious inspiration.  

I had lunch with Andean greenhouse farmers, discussed the merits of bees and Birthright with Israeli food foresters, and became friends with some of the most incredibly inspiring people I’ve ever met – students like myself.  

What a breath of fresh air it was to meet the team who gets its hands dirty working on solutions. Seed libraries in Tucson?  Composting and kale at elementary schools? Vertical farming? It’s being done, and most importantly, it’s being done passionately.  

Talk about hope – the lesson I learned over and over again this week is that our leaders - our CEOs, our teachers, and our politicians - are still listening. That means that it is up to us – the students, the future – to tell the story that must be heard, the story of food.  

Working together, with our lips, our hands, and our shovels in the soil, we are going to feed the world.

Amanda Richey, Furman University

Forty percent of the food processed in this country alone goes to waste.

As climate change wreaks havoc internationally, local indigenous communities will be most vulnerable to the effects.

Hunger in the United States is a moral dilemma without enough political support.

Supporting a woman in agriculture and in education can raise her family’s standard of living by roughly $110.

We live in a hyphenated world where “or” often replaces “and."

To say I’m a little overwhelmed after the Feeding the Planet Summit would be an understatement. Feeding all soon to be nine billion of us, fairly and sustainably, under increasingly sporadic weather is the ultimate test of my generation’s lifetime. We have to do it using strained agricultural land and limited water and we have to do it fast.

Yet I am hopeful about our future.

Ultimately, food is the most intimate environmental challenge. We all know what it means to be hungry and we all know just how much we need food to survive. At least three times a day we have the choice to help move the planet forward. We can connect with our food and farmers, curb our appetites, and consciously share with those of us who wonder where their next meal will come from. By connecting our currently “hyphenated” narratives we can change the outcome of our global story from one of hunger to one of justice.

Let your next meal be one that feeds not only your body, but also your soul. Truly value your food and the farmer who worked tirelessly to bring it to you. Remember that not everyone has the same privilege that you have. Share your story and yourself when you share your food.

We can feed the planet. In fact, we must. But for this mountain of a challenge to be overcome we have to start at home.

Liesel Robbins, Middlebury College

Picking out my favorite part of the Feeding the Planet Summit is hard task, because there wasn’t a single something/someone who didn’t inspire me at the Summit. I don’t think I’ve ever gone through a whole day being constantly inspired by presentations and discussions, as I was the day of the Summit.

I was especially drawn to Jim McGovern’s talk, as he points out we do all know how to end world hunger, unlike ending a war, yet the world doesn’t know how to put a war on hunger all together. He asked us: what would happen if a tiny percentage of our military budget went to a food war? I’d never thought of ending world hunger as simply a matter of effort and allocation of available resources. We get so wrapped up in the technicalities and the various barriers or logistics that we convince ourselves that a global change, such as alleviating hunger, is so far from possible that it becomes close to impossible. These technicalities are crucial in thinking about how we are going to produce the food to feed the world and efficient distribution etc. (as we saw with all the innovation ideas presented trying to tackle these questions). However, we need to start with the basic principle that food ought to be a right, and that it is a right that is possible and necessary to grant to all of the world’s citizens. It was refreshing to hear this genuine urgency in providing a basic right from a frustrated, yet still optimistic, politician. ​

Sarah Gledhill, Middlebury College

The Feeding the Planet summit this year in DC was the first time I left an environmentally-related event with optimism. It was apparent that we, as a group, had passed the era of gasping at the problem we face and have started working on solutions. We heard panel after panel of congressmen, scientists, farmers, and students all creating a dialog together to tell stories about various farming projects, policy initiatives, and precision sciences that are all moving us forward in the vision of sustainable food. The audience, as well, was filled with even more individuals who challenged the speakers with engaging questions and added their own knowledge about sustainable solutions. During break out sessions and meals, I really appreciated the opportunity to personally connect with these people. The energy was infectious - and it won't stop at the summit.

The main message that I took away from this experience was that there are endless jobs in the world of agriculture. We not only need a new generation of smart, young farmers, but we need scientists, policy makers, and business people to work together. As a student interested in science and sustainability, this is right down my alley. I also realized the importance of telling the story of food, because an experience that not only helps us feed 9 billion by 2050 but that is also shared to touch others' lives makes a huge difference. I have been inspired to work in agriculture and to share this story.

Lydia Delahanty, Middlebury College

The Summit was engaging and incredibly well run. I was thoroughly inspired by the diversity of students, farmers, scientists, politicians, and others who each brought unique concerns and solutions. The opportunity to speak to individuals afterward was crucial, and I believe that is where I learned the most. No individual project was most interesting, but the fact that people from such diverse backgrounds were all in the same room trying to solve the same issue from all lines of attack made me feel that food insecurity is a problem that can truly be solved through collaboration.

Some parts of the story were missing, though. I am motivated to tell the story of how rural America will be affected by growing population and climate change. Hunting, fishing, and other countless hours spent outdoors have helped me forge a strong connection to earth and food, and I want that to be an experience that people from all walks of life can have. Reservations are often ignored in the country’s plans for the future, so just knowing that there are others out there working with minorities gave me the drive I need to create a project to help American Indians.

How do you move the Planet Forward? Tweet us @planet_forward or contribute to the conversation with your own story.