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New York youth shine at World Food Prize

Student presenting research
Bella Culotta ‘22 presents her project on how solar powered irrigation pumps can improve rural women’s’ lives in Nepal at the World Food Prize. Photo Credit: Jamie Kalousdian

Bella Culotta '22 arrived at the World Food Prize with a message for other students interested in working with food systems and development:

“Take every opportunity you can get and soak up as much knowledge as you can because in development work and research, you never know what you’ll find or who you'll meet and be inspired by," Culotta told delegates at the WFP Oct. 21 in Des Moines, Iowa.  

Culotta, a participant in the New York Youth Institute (NYYI) Seeds for Change program, was invited to present at the WFP about her summer internship in Nepal where she worked on a solar powered irrigation pump project to improve rural women’s lives. She plans to matriculate to Cornell as an International Agriculture and Rural Development (IARD) major in the fall of 2018.

“Food security is complex and unless you’re on the ground with the people battling it, you will never understand what it is like or the facets involved, so work and study abroad and research in the field is key,” she said.

Culotta was joined by six other NYYI student delegates to the WFP, where they interacted with 200 teen delegates from other states and countries and met with WFP laureates, former presidents and other world leaders. The students were: Derek Sherrange from Argyle, NY; Anna Gugerty from Homer, NY; Christina Ng and Tina Turner, both from the NYC area; Holly Kalousdian from Dryden, NY; and Elena Suarez from Albany.

Administered by International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (IP-CALS) at Cornell, the NYYI Seeds for Change program offers life-changing experiences for teens across New York. High school students and mentors explore fields of study within CALS, meet leaders in their communities and visit Cornell labs. Students in the program focus on improving human health, increasing access to education and opportunity, promoting economic growth and protecting the environment.

Every year, top students are selected to attend the WFP.

Cornell CALS student wins intern honor

Francine Barchett ’20 received the John Chrystal Award from the World Food Prize for her work at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India. Barchett, whose research focused on a United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal to ensure access to water and sanitation for all, studied India’s sanitation campaigns and their effects on nutrition and health at the village level.

Student interviews a woman in India
Francine Barchett ’20 interviews a woman in India as part of her internship. Photo provided.

“My work involved leading a village-wide survey of open defecation, hygiene, and lavatories, uncovering the behaviors, attitudes, and mechanisms for behavior change in sanitation,” she said.

The award recognizes an outstanding intern from the WFP Borlaug-Ruan international internship program, a two-month internship where Global Youth Institute alumni complete original research at leading agricultural institutions across the globe. Cornell graduate student Anthony Wendt received the award in 2012.

Investing in youth

Two NYYI alumni at this year’s WFP were asked to deliver inspirational talks to the next generation of youth interested in food security. Both are nationally recognized for their food marketing strategies and success. Lazarus Lynch is the founder of multimedia brand, “Son of a Southern Chef,” while Piper Martz is the founder of the startup “Human Seeds of Change.”

Investing in youth was a prominent theme of this year’s WFP celebration. Akinwumi Ayoyeji Adesina, the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate and President of the African Development Bank, donated his $250,000 prize to establish an African Youth Institute for the development of young entrepreneurs in agribusiness.

The 2018 NYYI conference will be held June 29-30 at Cornell. More information can be found on the NYYI website.  

Francine Jasper is associate director of professional development in IP-CALS and directs the NYYI program.