In the realm of humanitarian work, Sophie Healy-Thow is a force for change and innovation — particularly where nutrition is involved. As the founder of youth-led campaign Act4Food, her aim has been to put food security at the top of every agenda, prioritizing access to sustainable agriculture and nutritious food for all people. At only 26, she is recognized as a recipient of the esteemed 2024 Global Citizen Prize, an achievement that exemplifies the boundless potential of grassroots activism.

Growing up in Cork, Ireland, Healy-Thow was influenced by the strong women in her life – her mother, aunts, and grandmother. 

"I used to eat without thinking about where food came from. But when I moved to Cork and saw my grandmother growing her own fruit and vegetables, it opened my eyes," she said. Seeing her family grow their own food instilled in her a deep appreciation for food security and an understanding of how access to food connects communities.

Healy-Thow's passion for activism grew and she started becoming more determined to create solutions within the food security space, but it’s her participation in the Google Science Fair in 2014 that really made her think about it deeply. 

"At the fair, I talked about how our project that focussed on increasing the germination of crops could help farmers facing climate change, not just in Ireland or the US, but across Africa and Asia," she explained. But when she mentioned food security, many didn't understand. "They didn't know what it was or what it meant,” she said. “It wasn't taught in school, which made me realize it should be everyone's business. Food connects us all, yet decisions made by global leaders affect what we eat," she added. And that's when she knew she had to make a change.

Undeterred by challenges, Healy-Thow set out to put food security in the hearts and minds of decision-makers, entering the right rooms and sitting at the right tables so that it topped agendas when global food policies were being tabled. "I realized it's not just my problem; it's everyone's responsibility," she said. 

When attending these discussions, Healy-Thow reflected on the absence of youth representation in decision-making spaces, particularly concerning the UN’s Global Goal 2, which focuses on zero hunger. She observed that while the primary policy targets towards ending food insecurity addressed supporting pregnant women and the initial 1,000 days of a child's life, the transformative years between ages 12 and 25 were disregarded. 

"During these years, the youth has economic influence, engages in entrepreneurship, agriculture, and undergo pivotal cognitive development. Nevertheless, policies failed to address their need for access to safe, nutritious, and affordable food," she remarked.

Determined to make a difference, Healy-Thow and fellow youth activists congregated outside the UN Food System Summit in 2021 after being excluded from tabled discussions. They crafted a narrative, which was adaptable yet inclusive, that embodied global youth perspectives on the global hunger issue, eventually leading decision-makers to heed and act upon it. 

Bolstered by financing from a supportive funder, they established the Act4Food campaign. The goal was to empower young people worldwide to advocate for a global food system that ensures equitable access to safe, affordable, and nutritious diets, while championing environmental conservation, combating climate change, and upholding human rights. 

Since its inception in May 2021, Act4Food has garnered the support of hundreds of thousands of individuals through its pledge, fostering a global community committed to enacting meaningful change through personal actions. “The movement garnered substantial backing, with over 160,000 online and 400,000 offline pledges,” she added. 

This success, for Healy-Thow, wasn’t about being recognized as an activist, but about real change. She dreams of a future where every child has enough to eat and where youth lead the way. "We can't do this alone. It's about working together to make it happen," she said.

As she prepared to be awarded the Global Citizen Prize, Healy-Thow remained grounded in humility, acknowledging the collaborative efforts that pushed Act4Food forward. With a heart brimming with hope and a spirit fuelled by purpose, she persisted in amplifying the voices of marginalized youth, challenging the status quo, and illuminating the path toward a more just and sustainable future.

The Global Citizen Prize, is an annual award that recognizes and celebrates the unsung activists who are positively impacting their communities and going above and beyond to tick things off the world’s most important to-do list: the United Nations’ Global Goals


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