Iowa State Student Focuses on Local and Global Food Security

By Ellen Bombela, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications Service

Alyssa Dougherty is a big advocate when it comes to global food security. Through her work as a hunger fighter, she has impacted many lives, both locally and globally.

Her passion for food security stems from her experience with the World Food Prize, which she first became involved with seven years ago. In high school, she attended the Iowa Youth Institute for four years and the Global Youth Institute for one year.

“At these conferences, I came to understand the gravity and complexity of local and global food security,” said Dougherty, a junior majoring in dietetics and global resource systems. “It was here that I was inspired by Dr. Norman Borlaug and his quote: ‘Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world.’”

From there, Dougherty’s passion for global food security was born.

The next stop for Dougherty was Iowa State University. As a way to help fight local hunger, she volunteers at the SHOP student food pantry, where she serves as the president. She’s also an International Friendship Connection Group Leader and is involved with the Honors Program, the Student Dietetics Association and the World Food Prize Foundation.

The experience that has impacted Dougherty’s advocacy for global food security the most was her time in Guatemala as a 2017 Borlaug-Ruan International Intern between her freshman and sophomore year of college.

 She worked in a group of seven that included people from the United States, Guatemala and the Netherlands. The group conducted a study involving soups and malnourished mothers.

“Our goal was to see if adding whey protein powder to soup was an applicable solution to getting more protein into mothers’ diets,” Dougherty said. “Using a survey, we identified three different types of soups that were popular among women in that area of Guatemala. We added a whey protein powder and had the women do a taste-testing.”

From the study, Dougherty and her group found that the majority of the women preferred the soup with the whey protein powder added in.

The group also got to experience other aspects of Guatemalan culture.

“From chatting with locals about the country’s political disruption, to getting my hands dirty on a vegetable farm and witnessing the impact of a hospital for malnourished infants, every experience opened my eyes to the ever-changing, complex world we live in,” Dougherty said.

Dougherty was also a part of Land O’ Lakes’ Global Food Challenge Emerging Leaders for Food Security program, where she was able to research international issues related to food security. She also traveled to different parts of the country and the world, including South Africa, Malawi, Indiana and Minneapolis.

After their experience with the Land O’ Lakes program, Dougherty and three other interns started ‘Project Do Good’. The group is working to raise money through a GoFundMe page for Leliebloem group home, which is an orphanage that the group volunteered at during their time in South Africa. The group’s goal is to raise $20,000.

“We set our goal as $20,000 because Villa, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Land O’ Lakes Inc., agreed to match our donations up to that amount,” Dougherty said. “We have been reaching out to clubs, local businesses and churches for donations to help us work toward our goal.”

After seven years of being a part of the World Food Prize, Dougherty still finds ways to be involved and utilize the resources they provide.

“Each year I get more and more excited to participate and volunteer with the organization,” Dougherty said. “It has been fun to go from being a high school student learning and participating in the World Food Prize to a leader who is encouraging high school students to pursue their passion. Also, now that I’m in college I have more opportunities to network with others connected at the World Food Prize.”

After graduating, Dougherty plans to apply for the Iowa State Dietetic Internship, become a registered dietitian and go to graduate school for a master’s degree in international nutrition. She hopes all of these accomplishments will help her reach her career goal.

“I can see myself doing research, community nutrition or international project outreach both domestically and internationally,” Dougherty said. “As I firmly believe you cannot live a full life on an empty stomach, my life goal is to increase food security by advocating for sustainable agriculture and nutritious food systems.”

November 27, 2018