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Food Fighter

Featured Photo from Food Fighter

This Altamonte teen is on a mission to eliminate food insecurity around the world

It’s almost noon, and your stomach begins to grumble, signaling that it’s time to refuel. Maybe you head to the break room at work and grab the brown-bag lunch you packed for yourself, or perhaps you venture out to a local eatery with some friends. Either way, you can be assured that your nagging hunger will shortly be satisfied.

For 37 million Americans, those scenarios are fantasies. That’s because the United States Department of Agriculture estimates that one in nine Americans are food insecure, meaning they lack the available financial resources for food. 

Ashley Weinstein, a senior at Lake Brantley High School, is determined to fight this crisis and bring awareness to food insecurity at the local, national, and worldwide level. She was recently one of only 200 students nationwide chosen to attend a Global Youth Summit, where she addressed the issue head-on with some of the world’s leading advocates and researchers.

Ashley became more aware of the severity of this issue earlier this year, during a tour of the University of Florida with her 4-H Club and Orange County Extension Agents. She learned about the university’s Florida Youth Institute (FYI) summer program, which provides an opportunity for high-school juniors and seniors to engage with local leaders and experts on critical global challenges, participate in hands-on activities, and explore exciting ways to make a difference in Florida and around the world.

Through the FYI, Ashley began extensive research about the plight of food insecurity globally and in the United States.

“Before being a part of the FYI, I had never thought of food security as a local issue affecting families who live in my town or kids who attend school with me,” says Ashley. “This experience gave me a reason to dive into learning about food security and how we can improve this issue around the world.”

Dive in she did. Ashley spent a week on the UF campus this summer immersed in research, collaboration, and interaction with global leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs working to end hunger and poverty and improve food security around the world. The program included a role-playing poverty dinner in which participants were split up among low-, middle-, and high-income classes based off the world’s population and were fed accordingly.

“This dinner opened my eyes to the amount of people in the world who have very limited access to food, while there are those who have an abundance of food,” Ashley says. “I now have a better understanding of the disparity of food and wealth distribution.”

During the FYI summer program, Ashley published a highly-regarded research paper and was selected by UF staff and representatives from the World Food Prize Foundation as one of 200 students nationwide to attend the October Global Youth Summit in Des Moines, Iowa. At the summit, she presented her research findings to international experts and toured cutting-edge industrial and research facilities. She also took part in symposium discussions with global leaders in science, industry, and policy.

Ashley’s biggest takeaway from this experience was that “the fight against food insecurity involves more than science alone. International policy and economics play a large role in combating this issue.”

After graduating from Lake Brantley High in the spring, Ashley plans to focus her collegiate studies on finding solutions to the worldwide plight of food insecurity and make the cause her career.

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