Food security. Agricultural policy. International development. Sustainability. These are all issues that the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge aims to tackle, drawing together emerging student leaders from across the nation to take on this work.
This June, U of M Emerging Leader Claire Lentsch and professors Milena Saqui-Salces and Ian Tonks joined the Land O’Lakes 2019 Global Food Challenge as part of a trip to Tanzania and South Africa, where they participated in discussions of food security and sustainability with local agriculture leaders. Here, they share some reflections from that trip.
From local challenges to global philanthropy
Milena Saqui-Salces, associate professor at the U of M’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences: Being an Emerging Leader is an opportunity without equal. Students are mentored by people solving problems all around the world, from different disciplines and backgrounds...and as a faculty University Ambassador, I saw ways my research can have a direct impact on global agricultural challenges.
Ian Tonks, associate professor at the College of Science and Engineering: The most rewarding aspect of the program, overall, was seeing how scientists, farmers, business people—really, a very diverse set of folks with very different backgrounds and opinions—can all come to the same conclusion on the importance of sustainability in agriculture and beyond.
Beyond the classroom
Claire Lentsch, 2018-2019 Emerging Leader and U of M rising sophomore: As an Emerging Leader, Land O’Lakes helped me put the entire food circle into perspective, giving me exposure to countless experiences: working on a team project, networking with senior leadership, exploring food banks, traveling to Africa, and gaining insights into government relations.
Tonks: While we were on the trip in Tanzania and South Africa, we saw how aid, when it gets into the right hands, can make a huge impact in communities. For example, we got to see how Land O’Lakes support of a small dairy processor in Arusha allowed them to expand into butter production, making better use of their inputs.
Paving the way for a new generation of leaders
Lentsch: After this experience with Land O’Lakes, I decided to look into taking up a second major in psychology to better understand why people make the choices they do. This will help me to understand people’s individual situations and how they conduct themselves when put into stressful situations—and ultimately, how this all relates to food security.
Saqui-Salces: It’s very rewarding to see the Emerging Leaders come out of this experience with full projects and novel ideas, and knowing that we contributed a little bit to their success.
Tonks: I think my time with the Global Food Challenge will help me connect better with undergraduate students in our large organic and inorganic chemistry classes. We have a lot of students at the University with a strong interest in agriculture, and I feel more comfortable (and more credible) now in bringing back real-world examples of agricultural chemistry to the classroom.
Photos courtesy of Milena Saqui-Salces, Claire Lentsch