International agriculture students address food security at global conference

October 14, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — More than 2 billion people experience moderate or severe food insecurity, meaning they have difficulty in regularly accessing enough nutritious food, per statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The demand for food will grow as the global population is expected to reach almost 10 billion by 2050.

Students in the international agriculture minor — commonly referred to as INTAG — in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences are learning more about global hunger by attending the 2020 World Food Prize Norman E. Borlaug International Symposium, which is taking place virtually this week.

The conference, which draws more than 1,200 participants from 65 countries, features an array of international leaders, farmers, agribusiness executives, nongovernmental organizations and development experts to address the most critical issues affecting global food security. Among this year’s speakers are former Vice President Al Gore and His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein of Jordan.

The theme for this year’s virtual dialogue, “Breaking New Ground: Building Resilience Today for Improved Global Food Systems Tomorrow,” examines four major vulnerabilities or “cracks” in food systems: climate change, finance and investment, nutrition, and equity and access. Actions and outcomes for advancing food security and system resilience are the focus.

The conference is a remarkable opportunity for the students to learn from leading scholars, practitioners and politicians in agricultural development, noted Noel Habashy, assistant teaching professor and INTAG program coordinator in the college’s Office of International Programs.

“Every day, millions of families struggle to find safe and nutritious food,” he said. “COVID-19 is compounding the problem. Our students aspire to be problem-solvers in the realm of food insecurity — globally and in their communities. They understand that agriculture is a foundational component for addressing this complex and wicked problem.”

Habashy added that in the past, students had to apply and be selected to attend the conference, which is held every October in Des Moines, Iowa. Because the summit is virtual this year, all 12 students in the “INTAG 490: Senior Seminar in International Agriculture" can attend.

The conference concludes Oct. 16, which is World Food Day. This year’s observance marks the 75th anniversary of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in an exceptional moment, as countries worldwide deal with the widespread effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Highlighting this concern, the U.N. World Food Programme has been awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to combat hunger and improve conditions for peace. In recognition of World Food Day, the Office of International Programs encourages people to make food or monetary donations to Lion’s Pantry, the State College Area Food Bank or food banks in their respective communities.

The INTAG program helps students cultivate an understanding of international development and the agricultural systems of various cultures throughout the world. The interdisciplinary curriculum features courses in a wide range of academic fields, including social and natural sciences, and can be paired with any Penn State major. 

More information about the INTAG program can be found online at





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Last Updated October 14, 2020