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Celebrating World Food Day with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization

October 19, 2023

On October 16th, the NY Sun Works team was honored to join the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in celebration of World Food Day, a global occasion that serves to elevate discussions and unite voices around food systems and security on a worldwide stage. This year, representatives from UN member countries, the UN System, the New York Mayor’s Office of Food Policy, the NYBG, and NY Sun Works came together to share and learn about these critical topics and highlight the importance of leaving no one behind. By harnessing the power of collective action, World Food Day serves as a call to action, empowering us to work together toward a world free of hunger and one where regular access to healthy, fresh food is a guarantee for all. 

This year’s theme was “Water is Life, Water is Food. Leave no one behind,” which highlighted the connections between urban food systems and food security, and their linkages to water. In light of this, we were proud to have Melissa Laudenbach, our Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Operations and Curriculum Coordinator, speak on our behalf. As a member of both our Grow Support and Education Teams, Melissa shared her insights on the reality of implementing climate education and sustainability science in an urban environment like NYC. In accordance with this year’s theme and its emphasis on accessibility and inclusion, Melissa also spoke about how using hydroponics to equip high school juniors and seniors with CEA farming techniques can shape both their individual and collective futures. These marketable technical skills will allow them to pursue green careers in growing fields like sustainable urban agriculture, breaking down barriers to entry for students from low-income communities. She also shared how working with some of the over 1,000 partner teachers we have trained has had an exponential impact on the sustainability of New York’s future, resulting in quality climate education opportunities for tens of thousands of NYC students.

Guangzhou QU, FAO New York Liaison Office Director and Ms. Jennifer Bernstein, Chief Executive Officer and The William C. Steere Sr. President, NYBG react after posing for a photo with the speakers at the World Food Day (WFD) event at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG).

Through our work using water-based hydroponic farming to implement an engaging sustainability science curriculum in NYC public schools, we’ve learned firsthand the significance water can play in the production of food and food systems. Hydroponic farming uses up to 90% less water than traditional soil agriculture, and its vertical and space-conscious design allows it to easily adapt to the landscape of an urban environment. By connecting students with early and consistent exposure to sustainable technologies and the science that powers them, our goal is to equip students with the knowledge and experience they’ll need to navigate a climate-altered future. Whether they’re monitoring systems for their water levels, checking crops for pests, or recording their findings with pen and paper, students in our program are encouraged to foster a sense of scientific inquiry as they explore how the plants they’ve grown mirror the impacts of real-world climate change. In doing so, we hope they’ll feel emboldened to take action in their classrooms, households, and communities. 

As our community of sustainable farmer-scientists continues to grow to over 300 partner schools, the number of students we’re impacting has flourished as well. We envision a New York City where every school boasts a Hydroponic Classroom, and where farmer-scientists across the five boroughs learn about the environmental impacts of their daily decisions through the magic of hydroponic farming. Every student deserves a sustainable future, and with each new teacher trained, comes the thousands of students whose lives will be impacted by this new approach to STEM education. Climate change may impact each of us differently, but our responsibility to understand and protect our planet remains the same. And thanks to the success of occasions like World Food Day, we’re closer than we’ve ever been to the sustainable New York of tomorrow. 


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