Iowa Youth Institute hosts record number of high schools

The seventh annual World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute recently brought together 309 students from 135 high schools at Iowa State University to explore critical global food security issues and discover academic and career paths in STEM fields.

“I recall being here on campus for the first Iowa Youth Institute in 2012 when it was held in the Memorial Union,” said Gov. Kim Reynolds during the Youth Institute. “The fact that today we are only able to accommodate all of the students and teachers here on the floor of Hilton Coliseum is a testament to the vision of the World Food Prize leadership, and the hard work of everyone who has been involved, including the faculty and staff of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Your dedication and investment in the young leaders who are here today is remarkable and we are so fortunate to have leaders who value the talents and ideas of our students.”

The Iowa Youth Institute has now reached over 64 percent of all Iowa high schools since its inauguration in 2011, and has been referred to as the most unique and innovative event to inspire Iowa high school students to focus on global issues and opportunities in STEM. This innovative experience encourages students to explore academic and career paths in fields related to STEM, food security, agriculture and global development and aims to inspire the next generation of leaders through research presentations and networking with global experts.

“The importance of the Iowa Youth Institute and the positive impact on reducing hunger at home and abroad “IYI is one of the best experiences for students,” said Casey Dunley, an educator from Des Moines Roosevelt. “From researching real world issues, to generating viable solutions, to creating the paper based on the new learning, to today’s event; this is a wonderful opportunity to show students that they have the power to have an impact on the future.”

Interested students select a developing country and write an essay about a key factor affecting its food security. The paper should explain typical living conditions, the selected factor and potential solutions. Students will present their ideas at the Iowa Youth Institute, participate in interactive activities in labs and classrooms on campus, and interact with innovative professors and business leaders from across the state. All participants are eligible to earn a $500 scholarship to Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, as well as opportunities for prestigious international internships through the World Food Prize.

Since 2012, Iowa State University has awarded over $250,000 to students participating in World Food Prize programming, ensuring that young leaders have access to a high-quality education, professional mentors, and are prepared to tackle our world’s toughest issues in hunger and poverty. The top Iowa participants will also be selected to join scientists and policy experts from around the world at the three-day World Food Prize Global Youth Institute in October.

“I commend you for being here, for embracing the desire to improve the global food supply, and for wanting to take action on behalf of people you might never know,” said Chavonda Jacobs-Young, administrator of the Agricultural Research Service, during her morning keynote presentation. “You, as a generation, are important to USDA, because you will be the consumers, the employees and the leaders of our future. Your efforts can make the difference.”

In 2017, The Iowa Youth Institute had a record participation of 310 high school students in more than 134 schools, and aims to eventually reach every school in Iowa to meaningfully engage students interested in these careers. This one-day event is offered at no cost to teachers or students. More details are available at