Dulles High School senior Rana Duan has a knack for tackling challenging topics and distilling them into easily digestible, informative video features.
A three-time participant in the World of 7 Billion video contest, Duan won first prize for her 60-second animated video “Food (Deserts) for Thought” after receiving honorable mentions in 2019 and 2020.
She said her ability to quickly understand and articulate arguments for causes she advocates for emerged in sixth grade, when she began participating in a debate class.
“I’ve always tried to be an advocate in my day-to-day life, whether it be social issues, political issues or issues that we’re facing right now,” Duan said. “I’ve always really cared about social justice, and I think video-editing and video-making is one way I can do that.”
Duan said she learned about the World of 7 Billion video contest, which is sponsored by Population Education — a national program that works with schools and teachers to develop curriculum about issues related to human population — when it was offered as an extra credit assignment by her geography teacher.
She’s since become fascinated by documentaries, including the PBS series “Frontline” that has inspired her to create her videos about topics like food deserts, areas where access to affordable, healthy food is limited or unavailable, particularly in low-income communities.
Living in a food desert can have health consequences, Duan reported, including obesity and diabetes, which can lead to premature and preventable deaths.
The solution to these food deserts, Duan argues, is not only to build more grocery stories, but to make fresh produce more affordable and to educate people about dietary measures like portion control, avoiding processed foods and exercising regularly.
“Food stamps should be modified to make fruits and vegetables cheaper,” Duan said in her video. “Healthy food pantries should be opened, and we should encourage families to continue making healthy decisions.”
Duan said she plans to study economics at the University of Texas at Austin, and she plans to create more of her bite-sized informational videos in the future. She said she’s considering double-majoring in government and environmental science because she believes those subjects will help her to promote environmental policy and result in “tangible action.”
“It’s so enjoyable for me to do this research,” Duan said. “It feels really fulfilling to create something and be able to share it with the world.”