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First Presbyterian International Food Security-Student Field Support Program

The First Presbyterian Church in Ithaca has an outreach fund to invest in food security in developing countries. Beginning in 1985, a group of Presbyterians interested in world hunger and food problems met to consider ways the local church might help in a modest way to address the issues of food security.  From these discussions, a student assistance program was initiated and has continued through regular contributions from the congregation. It is now in its thirty-third year. To date more than 90 Cornell graduate students from 30 different countries have received International Food Security Grants from the First Presbyterian Church.

Purpose and Operation of the Program

The primary purpose of the program is to provide supplemental research funding for international graduate students whose work shows significant promise to improve food security. Grants are made without regard to an applicant’s religious beliefs or absence thereof.  The funds are to be used in some phase of field research or work in the student’s home country.  For example, funds may be used for additional technical assistance, equipment, local travel, or other needed resources to implement the thesis research or MPS project.  Funds are not ordinarily awarded for international airfare.  A second purpose of the grant program is to involve and educate church members about a country's food security issues.  As a condition of receiving the grants, students must make a presentation to members of the church about their research and how it will address hunger in their country.  Because members of the church financially contribute to the award, they look forward to hearing about the results of students’ work after it is completed.  Typical grants awarded are in the range of $2,000.

The International Food Security Committee of the Church reviews the applications, conducts interviews, and selects students who will receive grants.  This committee works closely with the Senior Associate Director of International Programs/Global Development at Cornell.  This office will serve as the center for identification of students who might be eligible for this financial aid. 

Applications are due March 27, 2020. Interviews will be conducted Saturday, April 11, 2020 via Zoom.

Criteria for Student Eligibility

  • Be an international student from a developing country.
  • Be enrolled in a graduate (MS, MPS, or PhD) program at Cornell in field of study that is likely to contribute to improved food security (for example, agricultural production, nutrition, education, communications, food policies, environment and natural resources, water resources, global development).
  • Have plans for doing thesis research or an MPS project in her/his home country and in cooperation with others working on food security issues in the area.
  • Agree to financial oversight of the grant by her/his graduate committee chair.
  • Be committed to returning to her/his home country to work on food security after completion of the graduate degree.
  • Be willing to share plans and experiences with the First Presbyterian Church supporters of Ithaca.

Report of Research Program

Awards will be presented during the church service on April 19 or 26, 2020.  The exact date is still to be determined. We ask that grant recipients set aside time from 10:00 to 11:30 on both mornings until the date is finalized. Te recipient will be asked to attend the service, accept the award, and meet members of the congregation during a short fellowship time after the service.  

Upon completion of the project, grant recipients are expected to make a brief presentation to church members during the church’s adult education time, from 11:30 to 12:30 on a Sunday.  In addition, the church committee will expect to receive a short, one or two page summary describing the student's field research experiences and an appraisal of the likely impact of his/her results on food security.