By TIMOTHY EGGERT
Living in a food-rich country, many Americans don’t have to think about where their food comes from, the people who helped grow and cultivate it and the devastating reality of life without it.
Gbola Adesogan, associate vice president and director of the Global Foods Systems Institute at the University of Florida, said the U.S. agriculture industry plays a key role in making food security a reality for other countries as well.
Adesogan delivered the keynote address at the 2023 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Orlando, Florida. More than 500 educators, literacy coordinators and ag proponents from around the country attended, including 17 from Illinois.
Adesogan stressed the importance of working with global partners to identify issues facing food systems, such as livestock production and the lack of individuals entering ag careers.
“Our mandate is to try and look for opportunities to improve global food security,” he told FarmWeek. “What we’ve been doing is funding or managing research that addresses those problems.”
Adesogan has been involved in the Feed the Future project, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. He discussed the impact that access to food has on children, especially those in developing countries. The initiative’s research found students who had access to meat and eggs saw a 71% improvement in cognitive function.
“Agriculture is what is vital for growth of children and for their cognition,” Adesogan said. “It’s enriching livelihoods and agriculture is an important solution to environmental stewardship.”
In his speech, Adesogan discussed the consequences of malnutrition, with more than 144 million children suffering from a condition known as “stunting,” when their brains are not able to develop correctly due to a lack of micronutrients during infancy.
He also discussed “wasting” syndrome, the form of severe malnutrition that leaves children too thin and with weakened immune systems.
“They don’t achieve their great potential,” he said. “This is a really deadly form of malnutrition.”
Stunting is more prevalent in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia with rates of 30%.
“One in three children has the stunted growth. … When that happens, those children are unfortunately subjected to a lifetime of underperformance and underachievement,” said Adesogan. “That is the backdrop and one of the main reasons we are passionate about what we do.”
The initiative found that feeding children just one egg a day reduced stunting by 74%.
According to Adesogan, nearly 2% of U.S. children still experience the issue.
He also discussed how agriculture empowers women to produce their own goods and feed their children. Adesogan also touched on the importance of agricultural diplomacy and the use of ag in global relationship building.
Adesogan said programs like AITC do an extremely important job of helping kids understand what ag is and how vital the industry is in solving global problems.
“I think they do a phenomenal job in helping our children understand where our food comes from, and hopefully even inspiring some of our children to go into agriculture,” Adesogan told FarmWeek. “What they are doing is so critical for the future of agriculture and the future of the country.”
Content for this story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.