Youth Virtual Conference 2014

Food Systems and Sustainability

On May 2, 2014 Grand Rapids hosted the second annual Virtual RCE Youth Conference. Allowing for global communication and collaboration, this virtual conference inspired the next generation to seriously address the issues of food systems and sustainability by thinking globally and acting locally.

This project seeks to give students the perspective and practice of a global dialogue, in hopes that they will better understand the unique food systems dilemmas facing the regions of the world and in turn reveal and embrace universal concepts of sustainable evolution through dialogue, empathy, and collaboration.

Presenting participants included students and educators from the following counties and schools/cities: City High Middle (Grand Rapids, MI USA), Colegio Montessori (Medellin Colombia), Luther Hall High School (Regina, Saskatchewan CA), Abraham Lincoln School (Lima, Peru), Rex Putnam HS and Catlin Gabel School (Portland, OR USA)

After opening remarks by conference facilitator Ryan Huppert, the presentations began. Students stressed the importance of eating local and farm fresh foods. They explained that by eating local you don’t allow for as much transportation of the food, and therefore there is less of a harmful impact to the environment. Also explained were the cost benefits and consequences of this eating lifestyle. Students from Grand Rapids, Portland, and Regina explained that when one eats food from local farms it tends to be more expensive than the cheaper, unhealthier alternatives. This is a problem because many low-income families do not have the expenses needed to eat healthy fresh foods. Many students involved in the presentations discussed with each other the ways in which cities could minimize costs to allow more families access to healthy foods. Students from Medellin, Grand Rapids, and Lima discussed the foods most commonly grown in their counties, and continued to discuss their paths from farm to table. They spoke with each other about the differences, and the pros and cons of their methods of transportation of specialty foods native to their countries.

After the final presentation, facilitator Ryan Huppert and Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell gave the closing statements. They stated that with this conference students from around the world were able to collaborate and discuss the food issues each country is facing. Although the issues were unique in each country, all students were able to empathize with each other and use their knowledge and utilize their unique perspectives to help each other begin to solve these local, regional, and global problems.