Sustainability at Culver

Conserve – Reduce – Educate

Leave a comment

Reflection on World Food Prize and Global Youth Institute Trip

Over the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in scores of fascinating conferences, professional association meetings, and educational events.  As a Congressional staffer, I organized a couple dozen US Senate hearings.  Having just returned from the World Food Prize and Global Youth Institute meetings in Des Moines, I am certain I have never participated in anything as meaningful or inspring as these two events.

With this post, I will try and provide a perspective including pictures and commentary from our 3 day trip.  Suffice to say, I’m still processing the breadth and volume of information presented to us, as well as learning more about the people with whom we met.  I will plan to add to this post over the next few days.

A confluence of factors created the positive dynamic at the World Food Prize and Global Youth Institute.

Where else to begin but with the challenge… 800 million people on our planet are food insecure, and our population is expected to grow from the current 7.3b to above 10b by 2050.  These slides from the Association of Land Grant Universities underscore the disproportionate impact food insecurity has on children.

The World Food Prize brings together, governments, non-governmental organizations, academics, corporations and activists to address the challenges of global food insecurity.

The four 2016 World Food Prize Laureates

Dr. Maria Andrade, Dr. Robert Mwanga, Dr. Jan Low and Dr. Howarth Bouis

“At a time when malnutrition, stunting and early childhood death remain a scourge for millions on our planet, the four 2016 World Food Prize Laureates have uplifted the health and well being of more than 10 million persons through the biofortication of staple crops, particularly the vitamin fortified orange fleshed sweet potato, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize said. “They have truly fulfilled the dictum attributed to Hippocrates from almost 2,400 years ago – to “Let Food Be Thy Medicine.”

laureatesThe three-person team from the International Potato Center (known by its Spanish acronym CIP) – Dr. Maria Andrade of Cape Verde, Dr. Robert Mwanga of Uganda, and Dr. Jan Low of the United States – were honored for their achievement in developing the single most successful example of micronutrient and vitamin biofortification – the orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP).

Dr. Andrade and Dr. Mwanga, plant scientists in Mozambique and Uganda, bred the Vitamin A enriched OFSP, while Dr. Low structured nutrition studies and programs that convinced almost two million households in 10 African countries to plant, purchase and consume this nutritionally fortified food.

Dr. Howarth Bouis, the founder of HarvestPlus at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), pioneered the implementation of a multi-institutional approach to biofortification as a global plant breeding strategy. As a result of his leadership, crops such as iron and zinc fortified beans, rice, wheat and pearl millet, and Vitamin A-enriched cassava, maize and OFSP are being tested or released in over 40 countries.

Our impressive students

Thanks to the guidance of Culver’s Global Studies Institute Director John Buggeln, two Culver seniors, Katie Driscoll (CGA ’17) and Julia Smith (CGA ’17) were successful in competing at the Indiana State Youth Institute conference held earlier this year at Purdue. Several Culver students competed in the state contest by submitting original research papers addressing some aspect of good insecurity.  Katie’s and Julia’s papers were accepted for presentation at the international conference in Des Moines.  During the Youth Institute, each student presented her paper to a panel of university faculty experts and were given feedback on her presentation.  Culver math instructor Sandra Reavill and I had the privilege of chaperoning these two accomplished young women.

Learning about Norm Borlaug

Prior to arriving in Des Moines, I had no idea who Norm Borlaug was.  No longer.  One of only 7 people to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, The Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal (think Dr. Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela).  norman-borlaugBorlaug grew up in Iowa, studied biology and plant genetics and is credited with developing strains of wheat and other grain which had draught and disease resistance.  These new strains of grain were widely distributed throughout Mexico and SE Asia during the 1960s, a time when hunger was claiming millions of lives annually.  Borlaug’s work is widely credited with saving more than 100 million people from starvation.

Borlaug used some of the prize money from the Nobel Prize as well as other resources to create the World Food Prize in 1986.  The purpose of the World Food Prize is to recognize the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.   In early 1990, John Ruan, an Iowa businessman, permanently endowed the Prize.  Ruan’s son, John Ruan III, is now the Chairman of the World Food Prize and is guiding this impressive program into the future.

Meeting John Ruan III

While Norman Borlaug’s scientific insight and vision have propelled the World Food Prize forward, without the leadership and financial support of the Ruan family, this international collaborative efffort would be for naught.  John Ruan III, pictured below with Culver students and Culver instructor Sandy Reavill at the Global Youth  Institute luncheon, is Chairman of this effort and brings his considerable business acumen to the organization.

We had the opportunity to meet Mr. Ruan which was a big thrill as he is also a Culver Educational Foundation Board member.

Stimulating, compelling, accomplished speakers

Former Malawi President Joyce Banda’s speech was perhaps one of the most moving, humerous, urgent speeeches I have ever heard.  She leads an inspring life.  Her speech deserves its own post and I will write more about it once I track down a recording of it.

World Bank President Jim Kim’s speech

Another utterly compelling speaker was World Bank President Jim Kim.  Beginnng his speech wth the statement, “The greatest stain on the conscience of the world today is hunger in children,” President Kim went on to create a vision of a world in which hunger and malnutrition could be conquered.  Not an easy task as 156m chlidren around the world are developmentally stunted due to malnutrition and hunger.  Stunting doesn’t just refer to physical growth, but also mental — stunted kids have a vocabulary less than half the size of non-stunted kids.  Nonetheless, Kim’s realistic optimism gives hope these challenges can be solved.

Roger Thurow and 1000-daysThe First 1000 Days.

Author Thurow, a Wall Street Journal reporter spoke on his new book, The First 1000 Days.  Get used to this phrase, because I expect it will become a touch point for public policy. Thurow’s thesis that proper nutrition during the first 1000 days (from conception through a child’s 2nd birthday) can profoundly influence an individual’s ability to grow, learn, and work—and determine a society’s long-term health and prosperity.  Thurow tracks four families from around the world to help illustrate this point.

Food Waste

While many factors affect hunger and malnutrition, perhaps the most galling is food waste.  The slides below from Monsanto’s presentation illustrate the scale of food waste in our world and the array of tactics for reducing it.

More to follow.

I returned from Des Moines energized and enlightened.  I will continue to read and learn more about hunger and malnutrition and I encourage you to do the same.

Leave a comment

Global Youth Institute and World Food Prize

world-food-prizeVery honored, along with fellow Culver instructor Sandra Reavill, to chaperone two Culver students to the Global Youth Institute and World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa.

This year, the students representing Culver Academies are Katie Driscoll (’17, Durango, CO) and Julia Smith (’17, Bloomington, IN).  Culver’s Global Studies Institute is sponsoring our trip.

Every year about 200 exceptional high school students from across the United States and other countries are selected to participate in the three-day Global Youth Institute hosted by the World Food Prize Foundation.   Selected students and their teacher mentors travel to Des Moines to attend this exciting three-day event at which they interact with Nobel and World Food Prize Laureates and discuss pressing food security and agricultural issues with international experts.

At the Global Youth Institute, student delegates present and discuss their findings with international experts and their peers, connect with other students from around the world, tour cutting-edge industrial and research facilities, and take part in symposium discussions with global leaders in science, industry and policy.

Stay tuned to this blog for updates on this exciting event.




Quick Sustainability Update

A good Monday afternoon to everyone.  Culver is enjoying a delightful respite from unrelenting heat, humidity and rain.  Beautiful sunny and pleasantly warm days in the forecast.

Several items to update everyone on…  First,

It’s BACK!!!!!


What, might you ask, is “it”?  Culver’s compost program at the Dining Hall is back on line!  The wood bin above is the repository for a food slurry mix which we generate from our food waste, both from food that is discarded from plates as well as from the meal preparation process.  The blue tub next to the wooden one contains wood chips which we add to the food slurry to aid in the composting process.

Food waste represents a signficant portion of waste we would otherwise send to the landfill.  We continue to work with our compost program to make it a 12 month program at Culver.

Secondly, yesterday Don Fox, Culver’s Summer Schools and Camps Director, and I attended the opening ceremony and lecture of a conference sponsored by Notre Dame. Entitled, “Sustainable Wisdom: Integrating Indigenous Know-How for Global Flourishing,” this conference is bringing together a diverse group of tribal elders and scholars from across North America to discuss various aspects of indigenous culture and what we may learn from these cultures in our modern world.

Of particular interest yesterday was a lecture presented by John Low, a Potawatomi scholar who has prepared the first comprehensive history of the Pokagon band of the  Potawawtomis.  I recommend his book, Imprints, to anyone who has an interest in this native culture and the upper Midwest.

Lastly, I have been remiss in not posting this fascinating narrated video of a drone flyover of the Lake Maxinkuckee watershed.  The video, funded and produced by the Lake Maxinkuckee Environmental Council, is informative and a great view of the tributaries which supply water to our lake.  The video provides a bird’s eye view of the wetlands which provide such valuable service to our water quality.  Check it out!




Leave a comment

Sustainable Wisdom: Indigenous Know-How for Global Flourishing — Conference @ Notre Dame

A fascinating conference will be hosted soon at Notre Dame.  “Sustainable Wisdom: Integrating Indigenous Know-How for Global Flourishing,” will bring together an interdisciplinary set of scholars and artists ready to integrate first-nation and mainstream contemporary understandings to move toward a flourishing planet.

You must check out the program link above.  There are speakers and programs which connect directly to anyone with an interest or concern for sustainable living.

The conference is sponsored by 24 programs within Notre Dame and is being coordinated with a number of indigenous thinkers and artists.  The conference takes place September 11-15, 2016 at Notre Dame.  The image below is from the conference brochure.

idig image for nd

Leave a comment

Rain Garden Workshop

Saturday morning, Dave Blalock, Culver’s Grounds Supervisor, and I had the chance to participate in a rain garden workshop sponsored by the Marshall County Soil and Water Conservation District and put on by Jon Orick and Kara Salazar from Purdue Extension.  John and Kara had support from Sr. Mary Baird at Moon Tree Studios and Matt Linn, a wetland and lake specialist from Cardno.

The workshop, attended by approximately 20 people, was incredibly informativeGraphic.  We learned about the benefits of building rain gardens.  Rain gardens are intentionally designed areas near storm water sources (down spots, parking lots, etc) vegetated with native plants.  Rain gardens treat storm water and provide a number of other ecological services including providing habitat, improving water and soil quality, and reducing silt and pollution into waterways.  In addition, as the photos below illustrate, rain gardens are aesthically attractive.

Jon and Kara provided workshop participants with a number of useful reference sources to help design, build and maintain rain gardens.  Nothing illustrates a concept better than actually seeing it, so after the work session, we all had  tour of several different styles of rain gardens on the Ancilla campus.  The photos below are from the tour.

Culver has a number of potential locations where we could install rain gardens which would provide water quality benefit to Lake Maxinkuckee as well as a learning opportunity for students, faculty and staff.

Many thanks to the SWCD, Purdue Extension,  Ancilla and Cardno for putting on this informative event.



Leave a comment

Sustainability is “stellar” in Culver

Last week, the town of Culver hosted a contingent of state officials who visited our community to evaluate Culver’s “strategic investment plan” for economic and community development.  Culver is one of three Indiana communities under 6,000 popluation left competing for the “stellar community” designation.  The winning community will be announced next month at the State Fair.  For a link to an excellent video describing Culver’s application, click here.

Being named a stellar community is a big deal as it gives the community priority consideration for a number of state-funded programs, including Community Development Block Grants, Historic Renovation Grants, Downtown Enhancement funding, INDOT programs, as well as other programs.

A substantial amount of work under the direction of Culver’s Town Council and Town Manager enabled Culver to get to the finalist stage.  A number of Culver Academies faculty and staff participated in various community efforts to help prepare the strategic investment plan, but credit truly should be given to Town Manager Jonathan Leist for his perserverance and commitment to this effort.

Below are some pictures of Culver Academies campers and staff working on projects prior to the state officials’ visit last week.

woodcraft trail cleanup

Four “Gold C” Woodcrafters from Division 1 show of the trash and recycling they collected during a clean up of the “Indian Trails” section of campus prior to Stellar Community visit.

regina painting

Regina Padilla (CGA ’15) and Summer Sustainability Intern marks a storm drain on a newly paved downtown street. Eric March photo

admiring our work

Erin Pickford, Summer Sustainability Intern, prepares to mark a curb while Regina Padilla, Chris Kline and Ryan March (on cart) look on. Eric March photo.

Leave a comment

Two Interesting Perspectives on Food and Sustainability

One of the many wonderful aspects of living in Culver in the summer is the wealth of delicious food coming out of local gardens and farms.  Blueberries are just now coming into season and the sweet corn won’t be far behind.  At home, have been getting green beans, sugar snap peas, lettuces, onions and lots of flowers out of our garden for weeks now.

Here on Culver’s campus, our local food initiative is continuing to develop.  Over the past few weeks, we have purchased hundreds of pounds of tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers from local farmers.

All of us think about food — whether it is as dire as where our next meal might come from to the more luxurious question of which “farm to fork” restaurant we might chose to dine this evening. Working on a campus with more than 1,300 campers and hundreds of faculty and staff, we also constantly think about food safety, reliabilty and cost.

My cousin recently forwarded me a pod cast from a program called “Good Food” produced by KCRW, the National Public Radio station in Santa Monica, California.  There are two excellent stories from the July 2, 2016 program.

The first story looks at the impact of Brexit on Britain’s food economy.  Britain imports 40% of its food from the EU.   The consequences, and opportunities, for Britain to develop a more local food economy are discussed in this interview with food policy expert Tim Lang of City Universty of London.

The second story is an interview with Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which was first published 10 years ago.  Pollan reflects on the changes in the US food economy since the book was first published.

Enjoy these two interviews.  I’m going to go home and have a piece of blueberry pie!