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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Students work toward global hunger relief

As the population expands, and with it comes a rise in demand of world food supplies, one group of Texas A&M students has met the resulting challenge head-on.BioPhilia, a group of four students “united by the common cause of global hunger,” entered a global competition known as “Thought for Food” meant to mobilize the next generation of leaders to introduce sustainable methods that could potentially solve world hunger.College students around the world participate by submitting their personal innovations and solutions to Syngenta, the agricultural company funding the competition. The Top Five finalists will receive $1,000 to put toward their project as well as a trip to Berlin where they will have the opportunity to pitch their idea to a panel of judges and the first place $10,000 prize winner will be announced.Michelle Curiel, team member and junior international studies major, said she heard about the event online and quickly assembled a team to begin working against a problem she said is solvable.”Right now we have enough food to supply to everyone in the world but yet about one billion people go hungry every night,” Curiel said. “We are working on ways to improve this system so that in 50 or so years all these people that will be here still have food.”Through local collaboration with the A&M sustainability office as well as mentoring from A&M architecture professor Rodney Hill, BioPhilia, which translates into “love of life,” plans to go to local high schools throughout the Bryan-College Station community to form gardens.”Education has a huge part of this,” said Sydney Beckner, team member and freshman environmental geosciences major. “We want to educate people to the problems of the current unjust food system that this world has adapted to. We chose the youth because they’re our future and are far more open to this idea.”The team said the solution would not necessarily stem from the gardens themselves, but rather from the formation of a community based on empathy, understanding and love.”We’ve seen that when you connect yourself to plants and the dirt, there’s a healing aspect,” said David Smith, team member and junior biology major. “If you can integrate that healing aspect to diverse crowds that come together, then they will have a common ground to express themselves and connect with each other through bonds that may not have been there before hand. It’s building community by allowing the life that you see grow, build life amongst the community you want to generate.”The team plans to implement agro-ecological science into the formation of the local gardens in order to “mimic nature.” By using this system which incorporates all aspects of nature, the gardens will have interconnectedness.”Nature is very diverse and our current agriculture system does not always emphasize that,” Smith said. “If you use ecological principles to build your garden, you have this interconnectedness. For example, you have a flower that brings a certain type of insect that is a predator to another insect that preys upon one specific plant. This system allows you to better replicate nature.”In order to remain as sustainable as possible, the gardens will be designed around the “keyhole method.” This means that the gardens, which are made up of different recycled materials, will be structured in a circular fashion with an opening to the center, similar to a keyhole. A compost wastebasket will be placed in the center for students to throw away their unfinished food, which would then feed the plants.”Food scraps are very high in moisture, so you’re watering the plants as well as giving it nutrients,” Beckner said. “It takes the guesswork out of gardening. All you have to do is throw food into the basket and nature does the rest.”The team said it believes the simple building and maintenance of the project, as well as the extremely low cost of production, will attract many people to the idea.”This isn’t a cookie-cutter plan for every school,” Curiel said. “The whole point is to be adaptable and to create a feedback system. Every school will create a plan that adapts to their specific needs and environment.”All students will have the opportunity to vote for BioPhilia on the Thought for Food website starting May 1 until the polls close May 10.”We want our plan to reach the world but we are starting in America because of the influence we have across the globe,” Beckner said. “If we begin local then it could eventually spread to a larger sphere and lead to a planet that can create their own independent food supply.”

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