Editor’s Note: Agri-Pulse and The Chicago Council on Global Affairs are teaming up to host a monthly column to explore how the U.S. agriculture and food sector can maintain its competitive edge and advance food security in an increasingly integrated and dynamic world.

Across the world, people are hungry and in need, and we must step up to address the hunger gap to provide nutritious and safe foods for everyone. But no one person has all the answers to solve this massive global problem. The UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) on September 23rd seeks to address these issues by bringing all people together, harnessing diverse perspectives to better tackle global hunger and malnutrition.

One of the things I appreciate most about the UNFSS is the emphasis on providing inclusive opportunities for all voices to be heard. Whether it’s through the Action Tracks, the Dialogues, the Group of Friends, or other channels, I’ve been so proud to be a part of a group that is committed to hearing from diverse voices. The UNFSS has done an incredible job of creating space for everyone; young people, seasoned veterans, production farmers, logistics specialists, teachers, business leaders and more have been a part of the conversation for the past year to help us really understand the breadth and depth of the needs of our global food system.

Through these conversations, I’ve been convinced that the most important work is needed at the local and country levels. This is where the real hard work of design, implementation, impact, and tradeoffs are generated and experienced. That’s why it’s so important to have so many different voices at the table. I’m thankful that through 4-H, I’ve had a seat at the table since I was 12 years old.

In 4-H, I’ve always been encouraged to learn by doing, and I’ve never been told I couldn’t do something because I was too young. When I was just 12 years old, I met my local 4-H mentor and joined 4-H through Fort Valley State University in Georgia. Together, we started the Village Community Garden, where I got to expand my knowledge of agriculture and teach my family and community how to grow fresh fruits and vegetables. Serving as the garden manager for our 2-acre garden has helped me develop leadership skills and find my voice as I work to provide my community with nutritious foods to combat the obesity epidemic and other nutrition-related diseases.  Through the garden, I’ve educated students by teaching them to grow their own produce and create their own raised-bed gardens. It’s also been a platform for me to get back to the roots of 4-H – learning new technologies in agriculture and teaching them to older farmers in my community. I’ve had the chance to teach local farmers about new technology like aeroponic towers, and I hope that these new practices will help my community be more efficient and productive in the future.

My work with our community garden has helped me develop a broader interest in agriculture and our food system. In the US and around the world, food systems are what we rely on to get the nutritious foods we need to thrive. Food systems are vital to our lives and they’re especially important for our global society. There are many people in the US and even more abroad for whom the food system isn’t meeting their basic needs. The UNFSS has been an opportunity for me to amplify the work I started in 4-H and to grow a more global perspective for the challenges of food insecurity and the food system around the world.

The Summit is important for American farmers because we all play a role in creating more sustainable food systems around the world. As I think about the youth who will come after me, I see it as vitally important for us to find innovative ways to ensure food security, to identify ways to advance environmentally responsible production, and to encourage sustainable food systems. I am hopeful that the UNFSS will pave a pathway for us to achieve healthy, sustainable food systems that are beneficial for all people – both those doing the important work within the food system and the consumers who will benefit. We know that not all of the work will be complete by September 23rd. I hope that the Summit will serve as a powerful moment to encourage and empower us to keep going and make progress in the food system. I think the most important thing we can do as civil society is to take part in the Summit, stay informed, and hold ourselves accountable for the sustainable development of our food systems. As we labor together towards the Sustainable Development Goals, we should look to those who are doing this work well and seek to learn from them and implement similar practices in our own areas of influence. Then, it’s our responsibility to hold our government accountable through lobbying, voting, and working with integrity in our own function areas.

The UNFSS is the culmination of two-years of work for many (and one year of work for me) and will include a statement of action from the UN Secretary-General as well as reporting from national and independent dialogues that have identified pathways for food systems to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The Summit will take place on Thursday, September 23, and anyone can attend virtually by registering here.

Janya Green is an 18-year-old student who is passionate about youth in agriculture. As a 12-year-old 4-H’er, Janya helped launch the Village Community Garden, where she provides the community with nutritious foods to combat the obesity epidemic and other nutrition-related diseases. Through the garden, Janya also educates local farmers about new technologies like aeroponic towers. In 2020, Janya was named the U.S. National 4-H Youth in Action Agriculture Pillar winner, in recognition of her outstanding community agriculture efforts. Janya serves as Action Track 1 Youth Vice Chair for the U.N.’s Food Systems Summit. Janya is a freshman at Fort Valley State University studying biotechnology.

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