CHS students to present world hunger research

CHS students to present world hunger research

Six Concord High School students will join their peers from across the state this week for a two-day symposium to discuss world hunger and food insecurity issues.

Students were encouraged to select a country on which they would focus their research and then hone in on a topic area that directly impacts food security within that country, CHS Honors English and Speech Teacher Jeff Stutzman said.

“So while a country like Haiti has numerous issues affecting food security, Grace Brenneman chose to focus on malnutrition issues as her topic area,” he explained. From there, six student papers were selected to compete at the state level.

On Thursday, April 25, sophomore Allie Conant and freshmen Grace Brenneman, Bianca Jimenez-Ortiz, Stephanie Briggs, Layla Kattau, and Tyler Peacock will travel to Purdue University to participate in the World Food Prize Youth Institute.

During the state event, students will present their research and recommendations about ways to solve key global issues, connect with other students to discuss those issues, and interact with innovators and entrepreneurs from across the state who are working to improve food security. All six students will also be recognized as Borlaug Scholars.

Students who earn top marks during the state program will be invited to attend the three-day World Food Prize Global Youth Institute in Des Moines, Iowa. The event is held annually in mid-October.

The World Food Prize recognizes individuals for working successfully toward establishing a nutritious and sustainable food supply for all people. It was established in 1986 by Norman Borlaug, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 and became known as “the man who single-handedly saved a million lives” for his work increasing wheat yields. The World Food Prize is considered the Nobel Prize of agriculture.

Allie Conant, a CHS sophomore, will be making her second appearance at the 2019 World Food Prize Youth Institute after her paper entitled “Water Scarcity in Malta” was selected. After experiencing last year’s event, Conant decided to use her own time to research, write, and submit a paper.

Conant described the initial visit to Purdue University — one of her top college choices upon her graduation from Concord High School in 2021 — as “nerve wracking,” but added that she returned home from the experience ready and willing to share her research with classmates. 

Conant’s 2018 paper discussed how a lack of education among Hungarian children affected their ability to find high-paying jobs and thus, impacted their access to food.

Her work was not only skillfully researched, but included a tie to her family’s history as she studied the area from which her great-grandparents emigrated. As she researched, she learned about the poverty her own ancestors experienced, as well as how education was reserved for only certain groups of children.

“I’m interested in anthropology and equality, so that piqued my interest,” Conant said.

That experience, combined with the opportunity to learn more about the higher education opportunities, solidified Conant’s desire to re-enter the program this spring.

When it came time to select a topic for her 2019 paper, Conant sought out a country she knew very little about: Malta.

“I wanted to research a country that, from a surface level, doesn’t look like it’s dealing with the challenges of a third-world country,” she said, noting that she investigated Kosovo and Serbia before landing on Malta.

Malta, a country with a population of fewer than 450,000 people, is located in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and the coast of North Africa. The island has few natural resources and relies heavily on imported goods from Italy, China, and Singapore, Conant wrote.

The issue affecting food insecurity in Malta isn’t the lack food available on the island, but rather ironically, the scarcity of water. While some steps are being taken to create a sustainable water supply, including the desalination of salt water, aquifers, and reverse osmosis plants, Conant’s work concludes “Malta is at serious risk and nothing can get better if steps are not taken to progress forward in a positive direction.”

In addition to helping her improve her writing abilities and expanding her knowledge about other countries, participating in the World Food Prize program has helped Conant become more confident.

“I’m pretty shy and keep to myself a lot. So I was nervous about meeting new people,” she explained. “But once I was able to push past that and have these intelligent conversations with people who are willing to take a step away from pop culture and learn about world issues, it really helped me open up and try new things.”


Links to the students’ research will be shared here as it becomes available.

Allie Conant: Water Scarcity in Malta

Grace Brenneman: Malnutrition in Haiti

Bianca Jimenez-Ortiz: Malnutrition in the Philippines

Stephanie Briggs: Malnutrition in Burkina Faso

Layla Kattau: Sustainable Agriculture in Tanzania

Tyler Peacock: Water Scarcity and Sanitation in Kenya