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To Fight Hunger, Inspire Youth

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This week some of the foremost international leaders in government, business, non-profit and academia are gathering in Washington, D.C., to inform the G8 Summit conversation on the issue of food security, and to propose solutions to feed a growing world population. Heads of State, President Obama, even Bono, are joining together at the Chicago Council Global Affairs Symposium on Friday to share their goals for eradicating world hunger today and issue calls to action for feeding nine billion people in the decades to come.

This is a powerful showing of support for improving how we produce food, get it to market and feed those who need it most. However, even with the lengthy VIP list, there will be a significant audience missing from Friday's symposium -- the people who are going to be responsible for feeding those additional two billion in 2050.

Today's youth.

Come 2050, today's leaders in government, business and non-profit will no longer be in power. We will be on the sidelines. So we need to start talking now about who is going to take our place, and how we are going to inspire and prepare the next generation of food leaders.

The farmer that will feed the world in 2050 is 13 years old today, and with less and less children interested in taking over their family farms, we need to find new ways to get them excited about being part of the solution to world hunger. Additionally, the strong global demand for food creates an unprecedented need for young talent in roles that people may not immediately relate to food and agriculture.

We'll need leaders in global health, law, development, finance, engineering and information technology -- to name just a few. It is our responsibility to get young people excited about the challenge of feeding the world and then provide the opportunities to become the next generation of leaders.

Shirking this responsibility of preparing today's youth for tomorrow is not an option. Consider the strong connection between George Washington Carver, Henry Wallace, and Norman Borlaug.

George Washington Carver was at Iowa State University when he took a professor's young son under his wing, bringing him along on walks through his research plots and sharing his love for plants. That boy grew up to be Henry Wallace.

After discovering some of the first corn hybrids and founding Pioneer Hi-Bred, Wallace became Secretary of Agriculture, Vice President, and then inspired the Rockefeller Foundation to build the first agricultural research stations in Mexico. This station employed Norman Borlaug who would go on to invent improved wheat varieties and be credited for saving 1 billion people from starvation.

What would have happened if these men had never met? If when their paths had crossed, they never paused to share their knowledge, passion and inspire the next generation. It is hard to imagine.

Following the events surrounding the Chicago Council Symposium and the G8 activities, let's take time to understand the critical role of youth today in ensuring global food security tomorrow. Let's also appreciate the role we all play to make sure they do.