THE ISSUE

This month, Ayush Iyer, an eighth-grader at Manheim Township Middle School, was named one of 18 winners of the “World of 7 Billion” student video contest. More than 5,000 students in grades six through 12 participated. They were asked to create videos exploring population growth as it relates to one of three challenges: feeding 10 billion, preventing pollution and advancing girls and women. Ayush, who received a $500 cash prize, placed first in the “feeding 10 billion” category.

If you watch Ayush’s 1 minute-and-7-second animated video (we highly recommend it), you’ll probably react the way we did.

We’re simply amazed that the producer of the video is only in eighth grade. To say Ayush has a very bright future in front of him is an understatement.

And we applaud him for giving serious thought to how his generation can make a big difference. He represents yet more evidence that today’s teens are far from self-absorbed.

Ayush told LNP’s Alex Geli that he hopes to go into a STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — field, just like his parents, who work in computer science.

As Geli reported, Ayush’s goal — one that’s as challenging as it gets — is to solve the problem of world hunger in his lifetime. So it’s obvious why he chose that subject for his video.

Ayush has already become somewhat of an expert in vegetarianism, climate change and the responsible use of natural resources; all three, he told Geli, play a role in world hunger.

First, a little background:

According to the United Nations, the current world population of 7.6 billion is expected to reach close to 10 billion in 2050. “With roughly 83 million people being added to the world’s population every year, the upward trend in population size is expected to continue, even assuming that fertility levels will continue to decline,” the U.N. states on its website.

Half of the world’s population growth by 2050 is expected to be concentrated in nine countries: India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, the United States, Uganda and Indonesia.

Population Education sponsored the “World of 7 Billion” competition. It develops school curricula about human population trends and their impacts on natural resources, environmental quality and human well-being.

Ayush’s winning video focuses on three areas: cutting down on food waste (“about one-third of food generated is wasted,” he narrates); increasing vertical farming, which is the practice of growing produce in vertically stacked layers, using soil, hydroponic or aeroponic methods; and consuming fewer meat products.

Vegetarianism, he told Geli, is “one way we can really work to eliminate world hunger.” That’s because less food is needed if people eat plants directly, rather than feeding them to animals, which we then eat.

In his video, Ayush suggests starting with “meatless Mondays.”

On the subject of 33 percent of food going to waste, he notes that alone could feed 3.5 billion — almost half the world’s population.

“It’s such a big problem — more than people realize,” Ayush told LNP, “especially here in the U.S.”

He almost didn’t enter the contest. Encouraged by his teacher Melissa Reifsynder, Ayush initially balked at the idea because he knew it would be time-consuming.

Eventually, he decided to make a video “for myself,” he told Geli, and then entered it in the contest.

When he was notified at the end of last month that he was a winner, Ayush and his family were surprised.

“That was completely unexpected,” Ayush’s mother, Sukeshi Iyer, told LNP. “None of us actually remembered he even submitted it.”

“We were just thankful, and I’m glad his teacher recommended it,” she added.

Ayush is a regular “Renaissance kid” — he also likes to act, sing and play the piano, saxophone and tabla, an Indian percussive instrument. In addition, he plays tennis and hikes with his Boy Scout troop.

But while those activities are fun, his “feed-the-earth stuff” is “pretty cool,” too, Ayush told Geli.

We love his enthusiasm, and hope he never loses that youthful, energetic drive to find solutions that feed not just the wider world, but this community, where food insecurity remains a problem for too many.