Feeding a hungry planet

15 June 2017

Beth Hampton for web

Beth Hampton, thinking hard about global food issues.

University of Waikato science student Beth Hampton has strong opinions about global food security, and her ideas for solving issues around feeding the world’s population have earned her a trip to Belgium.

Beth, who’s wrapping up her Bachelor of Science majoring in environmental science and agribusiness at Waikato, is one of two New Zealanders selected to go to Brussels in October to join 98 other youth delegates from 49 countries for the Belgian Youth Ag-summit “Feeding a hungry planet”. Over five days the students will share their diverse experiences and work together to generate innovative, sustainable and actionable solutions to global food security challenges.

The delegates, all aged between 18 and 25, will work on group projects, participate in industry tours and hear from expert guest speakers. Their mission is to come up with concrete new ideas that can drive agricultural progress across the globe and be put into practice back home.

To be selected for Brussels, Beth (21) had to write a 1500-word essay presenting her ideas about feeding a hungry planet referencing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. “I focussed on food waste, as on an energy basis the FAO estimates that the amount of food wasted each year largely exceeds the requirements of the 795 million people who are currently food insecure,” Beth says.

However, how to address it depends on your starting point, she says. "The amount of food wasted in developing and industrialised nations is similar, however the source or cause of it is different. Forty percent of food waste in developing countries occurs at post-harvest and processing – so largely due to inadequate infrastructure – whereas 40% of food waste in in industrialised countries is at the consumer and retail level. So in developed countries like ours, a lot of the time it comes down to us preparing too much and throwing out essentially good food that we don’t eat, and will comparatively be more about changing social norms and consumer behaviour.”

Start learning at school

Beth also thinks agriculture and agribusiness need to be better integrated into New Zealand’s school system. “The primary industries have a growing need for qualified and innovative people. It’s not just about what happens on the farm; it’s a system that extends far and wide beyond it, and also includes biosecurity, food science, earth science, marketing, and technology.”

Beth comes from Matamata, but not off a farm. “I came to university to study environmental sciences, and someone suggested I do a sustainable agriculture paper as I might find it complementary. University really opened my eyes to the scope of agriculture, and all of the opportunities in the primary industries. It made me think critically about how we can do things better, and also helped me to understand all of the apsects of sustainabaility. You often need to dig deep and laterally to find feasible solutions to important issues, and I believe the best way to bring about change is to be involved.”

Beth wraps up her BSc this month and will head to Wellington to work at the Environmental Protection Agency as a science research assistant.

The Brussels summit is hosted by Bayer, together with partners Groene Kring (GK) and Fédération des Jeunes Agriculteurs (FJA).

The other New Zealander going to Brussels is Jemima Snook (24) from Lincoln University.