Student, faculty discuss global food crisis at iHotel conference

University faculty and students gathered at the IHotel on Thursday for the second day of the three-day conference called A New Green Revolution to discuss current global food and energy demands.

Morning panelists Robert Easter, dean of ACES, and Alex Winter-Nelson, professor in ACES, shared their p…University faculty and students gathered at the IHotel on Thursday for the second day of the three-day conference called A New Green Revolution to discuss current global food and energy demands.

Morning panelists Robert Easter, dean of ACES, and Alex Winter-Nelson, professor in ACES, shared their perspectives on agricultural education and the University’s role in the global food shortage.

Easter said poverty and instability are linked to hunger all over the world. Drought, population increase and a lack of investment in science and development are just some of the factors that brought about the food crisis, he said.

William Bowser, a doctoral student, said the food crisis and the disparity between the third and first world are some of the main themes of his research.

“The developed world has vested interest in these topics,” he said. “Problems of scarcity that start conflicts in the developing world affect the developed world.”

He said he was most interested in Winter-Nelson’s presentation about the continent most negatively affected by the food crisis, Africa

Winter-Nelson said global population growth continues to increase food prices. Because Africa has the lowest income per capita compared to the rest of the world, these prices put the most dramatic strain on African wallets.

Eastman said one of the keys to addressing the food crisis will be contributing quality human capital.

“The future of agriculture in the U.S. and internationally will be determined by availability of a competent, innovative work force,” he said.

The fact that the number of farmers in the U.S. is decreasing misleads many students into thinking that agriculture is a low-potential field, Eastman added.

In fact, opportunities for students across disciplines are vast in the industry, he said.

He said the University has just signed 20 faculty proposals to form agricultural education partnerships with universities in Africa, and University students can get involved in these projects.

Still, marketing the agricultural field to students from urban areas remains a challenge, he said.

Danielle Black, senior in LAS, attended Thursday’s panels and said she planned to attend Friday’s panels as well.

Despite being from urban Evanston, Black took an interest in ACES courses, which funneled her into an internship at the Department of Energy in New York for the coming summer.

“Anything about global food and energy needs would interest people, whatever their field,” she said.