Net Impact SolutionLab: Nourishing Nine Billion

On April 1, Washington University’s undergraduate chapter of Net Impact hosted a SolutionLab entitled “Nourishing Nine Billion” in the Gargoyle. Students from universities in and around St. Louis joined Washington University students as well as a number of professors and experts for the event. The lively discussions that followed focused on the difficult challenge of feeding a 2040 projected global population of 9 billion while, at the same time, striving towards carbon neutrality in the food system. A panel discussion kicked off the event, featuring panelists Dr. Nick Goeser from the National Corn Growers Association, Steven Hefner from the USDA National Resources Conservation Services, Monsanto’s Dr. Michael Lohuis, and Dr. Peter Raven from the Missouri Botanical Garden.

In order to tackle such an overwhelming problem as making the global food system sustainable, students divided into small teams. Each team focused on one aspect of the U.S. food system, such as policy, food distribution, or marketing, and was led by an expert in that particular field. Students learned techniques for solving complex problems such as those encountered in the U.S. food and agriculture system. Teams put their new problem solving skills to test by identifying a specific problem relevant to their focus, identifying key players needed to make the changes necessary to solve that problem, and drafting a potential to address it. Teams came up with a number of innovative ideas, ranging from consumer apps to a consolidated federal grant system to incentivize urban agriculture. Most importantly, students had a unique opportunity to collaborate and network with other students and professionals working on food and sustainability issues, while honing invaluable problem-solving and teamwork skills. We congratulate Net Impact for this remarkable success.

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