WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Graduate students from across the
country gathered at Purdue University for the two-week Borlaug Summer Institute
on Global Food Security.
Thirty-five students, including five from Purdue, took part
in the institute to learn about the challenges facing food security.
About a third of the participants were international
students studying at universities in the U.S. Those students represented a
variety of countries, including Cameroon, Ethiopia and Ghana.
“The summer institute is an intensive seminar that focuses
on a multidisciplinary approach to resolving global problems in food security,”
said Gary Burniske, managing director of the Center for Global Food Security at
Purdue. “The approach that we’re using is that we have identified emerging and
existing challenges to food security.”
He said that existing challenges include population
increase, health and nutrition, post-harvest management and other areas that
have been acknowledged in the past.
Emerging challenges, on the other hand, include climate
change, water quality and policies. According to Burniske, these issues have
been increasing over the past 10 years.
In order to gain understanding about the depth of food
security problems, students are taught by a variety of teachers and experts.
“What we do is we have faculty from Purdue, along with
scientists and experts from other universities and research organizations, who
are top experts in these different fields, come give a presentation to the
students on the latest status in technological developments,” Burniske
Through classroom lectures, field trips, group projects and
other learning tools, students gain deeper insight of food security. The main
group project was the finale of the summer institute.
“The program is sponsored by the Agency for International
Development, and they have a program known as Feed the Future, which has
identified the most food-insecure countries in the world,” Burniske said. “We
selected five of those countries for the students to develop a proposal and
study what they feel are the greatest challenges for security in those
Students presented their proposal to a panel of experts on
the last day of the program. After the panel interviewed the groups, a vote
determined the winners.
Jasbir Sangha, a doctoral student studying nutrition and
food science at the University of Maryland, said she learned several important
lessons during her time at Purdue.
“Before, my understanding of food security was a very narrow
one,” she conceded. “It was based on whether a person can access food, based on
access, availability and utilization.
“What this program has really taught me is about production,
agriculture production. We have learned that in order to ensure food security,
the agriculture production has to be sustainable.
“We have touched upon a lot of challenges, including land
use, climate change, nutrition, ecological, agriculture and energy use. We want
to keep in mind sustainability.”
Students such as Sangha were selected to be in the institute
by a committee at Purdue’s Center for Global Food Security. Out of 107
applications, only 35 were chosen.
“The Borlaug program that funds the summer institute offers
a fellowship, which provides financial support to graduate students to carry out
research,” Burniske said. “Two students here have received a fellowship. We hope
many students apply for the fellowship.”
The summer institute itself has received funding for five
years. Burniske said there is a possibility for an additional five years, as
Next year’s institute is scheduled to be held during the
first two weeks of June. For more information, visit