Thoughts from the HungerU Road
Follow along as the HungerU Crew brings you updates from the road.
A Global Gathering in Stillwater
By: Mallory Weber
I wish that I could tell you that I’m an expert on hunger. I wish that I could tell myself I am an expert on the hunger crisis and that I know every in and out to it. But I can’t. Not only is it something that’s ever changing, but I have never been to some of the places that have suffered the most, especially in Africa. However after our visit at Oklahoma State University this past Thursday and Friday, I am confident in saying that I’m a lot more in touch with how some of those places are suffering.
When I was a senior in high school, I travelled to Aruba for spring break. A small island about 17 miles off the coast of Venezuela. That was the only connection I had to Venezuela until this past Thursday when Marcia came to visit the HungerU exhibit. Marcia is here in the states for school, and still goes back home every summer. She was first upset about the rank that Venezuela had on the Global Food Security Index because she said it’s so much worse than that. I asked her to explain, but I wasn’t ready for her answers. She started to paint a picture of life back home, with raw emotions. "It’s a scarcity problem," she said. "The supermarkets are just empty. You go inside to see nothing but empty shelves. It takes going all around town to five or six different supermarkets to find what you need. And when it comes to things like milk or chicken? People will stand in line for three hours to get milk or chicken when it finally comes in." I was trying to wrap my head around that, and she continued to share. "Things like shampoo and conditioner, too. My mom told me to bring some with me when I go back this summer because I won’t be able to find it." Still trying to picture the kind of food scarcity she was describing, I asked about farming and agriculture in Venezuela. Before I could finish my question, she answered, "Gone." Seeing I was puzzled she went on. "We import everything. We have rice from Canada. Fruits from Peru. The government has destroyed all the farms. What farming is left is so small." I was taking in every bit of this real-life experience when we were joined by another student.
Yves is a student studying at OSU as well; however, he was born and spent the first 16 years of his life in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I know my eyes lit up when he said this, and I mostly hoped he didn’t take it the wrong way. You see, Congo is ranked 107 out of 107 on the Food Security Index, and I felt incredibly fortunate to hear his story and hear part of Congo’s story. I’m going to say this again, I was not prepared for what Yves was about to tell me. Because, according to the Index, Congo is the worst country in the world, I assumed one of the main problems is lack of food. I was about to learn how wrong I was. I asked Yves what hunger looked like in Congo, and what agriculture is like. He told me that Congo has enough farmable land to feed the entire world, the problem is they don’t have the technology and the means to make that happen. Then he said something that will change everything I thought I knew about hunger, especially in developing countries, up until now. "Hunger isn’t the absence of food, it’s the absence of nutrition." Not the absence of food. I’m embarrassed to say that that thought had never crossed my mind, and Yves and Marcia both agreed that that tends to be the most important part of it. Yves said they have food in Congo, the problem isn’t lack of food. The problem is the food they do have tremendously lacks in nutrition. He told me about a plant called cassava, what Marcia referred to as yuca. He told me how they would make it into a sort of bread. He said that cassava was one of the most common plants, and they would eat it in a variety of ways, as well as eating its leaves. Yves is really hoping to use his degree to fight hunger back in Africa.
This past Thursday there is no doubt that I was the one learning. I also will tell you right now that I would’ve talked and shared stories and listened to Yves and Marcia for hours, and I wish more than anything that we would’ve been able to. My hope now is that I can more accurately share their stories, and the stories of their home countries, in more of our travels. I am also extremely thankful for my parents instilling in me the eagerness to learn, listen and openly accept that we don’t always know all the answers—and that’s okay. Now, because of that, I know more of them.
What could we accomplish if we were all more willing to accept that we don’t have all the answers? What kind of learning opportunities would that open us up to? Who would we meet if we spent more time looking for learning opportunities?
Ahead of the Curve
April 16, 2014
Quick turnarounds between campus visits are a constant reality for the HungerU Tour. These short timespans can create difficulties when the crew works to get a full grasp on the many student organizations that are working toward the same goals and fighting the same fight as HungerU. It is always such a pleasure when we are able to learn about these groups by the students who lead and support them. Full Circle Campus Food Pantry and Razorback Food Recovery are two such groups that are well on their way to making a big impact at the University of Arkansas and the surrounding Fayetteville community.
We have all heard the term "working poor" before, but I have doubts about the level of understanding many people have for the true meaning of that diminutive phrase. For me, it is an umbrella term that is used to describe those hard-working individuals that struggle to make enough money to keep a roof over their family’s head, the lights on at night, clothes on their backs and food on the table. Notice I put "food on the table" last. That unfortunately is the reality in many American households; grocery bills are the last on the list. This is where the community-centered groups I mentioned above can have such an impact. Full Circle Campus Food Pantry has been open at the University of Arkansas for around three years; its main goal is to get food into the hands of those members of the university family who need it most. It may come as a surprise that food insecurity is a reality for many students and staff members of university systems all across the nation. We may think establishments of higher education are immune to the struggles of the poverty stricken and least fortunate members of our society, but we would be mistaken. Students across the country are battling food insecurity on a daily basis; some may come from families where financial situations don’t allow the student to receive family assistance for bills, and government-supported financial aid can only go so far; some even may be international students unable to receive work visas while studying far from home. Food insecurity can also be a reality for the hundreds, if not thousands, of part-time workers that keep each of our college campuses running smoothly each day. Full Circle is there to help these YOU of A family members in their times of need. I had the opportunity to speak with Mrs. Jane Gearhart, wife of the University of Arkansas Chancellor Dr. G. David Gearhart, and she was absolutely beaming with pride while talking about the role Full Circle Campus Food Pantry has taken in helping members of the university family. Through this group, we can see how providing a necessary resource to those that have fallen on hard times is an act that can have such a lasting impact on the university system as a whole while lending a hand to those that need it most.
The newly formed Razorback Food Recovery is hoping to take that resource distribution to a whole new level. The group was founded by U of A student Cameron Caja, who saw an opportunity to offer help to those in the Fayetteville community while working to eliminate food waste, an unfortunate reality of providing dining services to a large student body. With a student body of over 20,000, multiple dining halls, restaurants and quick-stop delis spread across campus and are required to have enough food prepared each day to meet the demand of the high number of students on meal plans and those purchasing one-time meals. In a dining operation of this size, end-of-the-day food surplus is a constant occurrence, and because of quality control much of that surplus ends up in the garbage. Similar situations can be seen in universities across the nation, but fortunately "food recovery programs" have been starting throughout the country to directly combat this issue and make sure the surplus products can end up in the hands of people facing difficult situations. Razorback Food Recovery is one of those programs. Working alongside Full Circle Campus Food Pantry, student volunteers from RFR take surpluses from on-campus eateries and set out to separate, repackage and distribute that food to the food pantry and community organizations that are in desperate need of resources in the greater Fayetteville area. It is a difficult process to maintain on a daily basis, but Cameron told me that being in Washington County, one of the most food insecure counties in Arkansas which is one of the most food insecure states in the nation, necessitates the effort. While the group is still in its infancy, they have grand goals for their organization moving forward and hope to continue to increase the amount of resources they are able to recover and offer to the community-at-large.
It is through groups like Full Circle and Razorback Food Recovery that we see the greatest part of what a tight-knit university community can do by using the resources at its disposal to better the lives of others. One of the main goals of the HungerU Tour is to get students thinking about opportunities that are precisely in line with the work of the groups I have mentioned above. Finding groups at each new campus visit that have already put in the effort, and long hours, to make a lasting impact for their fellow citizens constantly serves as a reminder of the amazing things a collection of people with similar desires can accomplish. The sense of volunteer activism is alive and well in Razorback Country, and I believe as long as there is a need for these type of projects around the University of Arkansas community and the city that houses it, the will of the students involved shall never yield.
The Big Picture Solution
Tarleton State, founded in 1899, started out as an agriculture-based school. Today, it is still known for producing excellent students in agriculture, but more specifically it’s known for producing nurses and teachers in a number of fields. However, the agricultural presence is still strong, and every student understands the importance agriculture holds.
The HungerU crew spends its days talking solutions to the global hunger crisis with a variety of students with a variety of backgrounds. Solutions such as donating to food drives, volunteering at soup kitchens and decreasing our food waste are commonly discussed, but it’s seldom that a student mentions advancing technologies in agriculture as a solution. As agriculturists, we all truly understand the importance the agriculture industry will play in solving the world’s most solvable problem.
Agriculture is the industry that clothes us, shelters us, fuels our cars and, most importantly, feeds us. In 1960 the American farmer fed 26.8 people. What is that number today? 155. Yes, you read that right. Currently, the American farmer is able to feed 155 people worldwide. How is that even possible?! Advancing technologies over the years have enabled the farmer to produce more while utilizing fewer resources including pesticides, herbicides, water and land.
Precision agriculture, also known as site-specific crop management, allows the farmer to know what areas of his crops need attention. Precision agriculture, made possible by the invention of GPS and GNSS technologies, matches farming practices more closely to crop needs. For example, if a certain area of a crop needs water, pesticides, etc, the map will reveal that need, and the farmer is able to fix the issue. Environmental risks are also reduced. Economically speaking, precision agriculture offers the farmer countless benefits with improved management of inputs, preserving resources for future generations.
Genetically modified organisms are going to be yet another part of the solution that agriculture will offer. GMOs give us higher yields using fewer resources, and make our crops drought- and pest-resistant along with many other benefits. As the population continues to increase and farmland continues to decrease, the ability to produce more food on less land will become increasingly important. Thousands of studies on the safety of GMOs have been performed in the last thirty years and no study has revealed any hazards to consuming GMO products. GMOs are among "the most extensively studied scientific subjects in history," according to Forbes magazine. In other words, we do not need to be afraid of GMOs.
While there are a number of solutions to feeding nine billion people by the year 2050, and every solution will start a ripple effect, it’s important for us to look at the big picture and realize what is going to make the largest impact. What is going to ultimately make hunger a thing of the past?
APRIL 8, 2014
-- By Mallory Weber, HungerU Crew
Noun: the quality of being dedicated or committed to a task or purpose.
Texas A&M University, home of the Aggies. From the Twelfth Man, to the Aggie Ring and the Midnight Yell, A&M is a school dedicated to their traditions. Texas A&M is also home to the Norman Borlaug Institute, which held the HungerU Food Forum this past week. While sitting at the food forum looking around the incredible building it was held in, I began to think about all of Norman Borlaug’s accomplishments. Not only that, but the way that A&M, a school where dedication and tradition run deep, had honored one of its most dedicated professors.
Dedication to tradition—something Texas A&M doesn’t take lightly. The Twelfth Man, a legacy that started 92 years ago as E. King Gill stood suited up on the sidelines of a football game, willing and ready to play at a second’s notice. Gill hadn’t even been a part of the football team, but was there when his team needed him. Today, the entire student body is referred to as the Twelfth Man and all stand, as if ready to play at any moment, for the duration of every Aggie home football game. The Aggie Ring, which receiving is one of the most anticipated moments for every Aggie. Many Aggies put it on the same level as receiving their diploma … or higher. Every Aggie Ring is identical, except for the year of graduation. Every detail on the ring symbolizes values which should be held true by every Aggie. One that I found most interesting were the 5 stars on the shield, representing Aggie phases of development; mind, body, spiritual attainment, emotional poise and integrity of character.
Norman Borlaug is known as the Father of the Green Revolution, a man dedicated to his work. Borlaug once said, "Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world," and he spent the better part of his life in helping to make that so. Some of his most notable work was done in Mexico breeding wheat, the basis of the Green Revolution. Though his main goal was to simply defeat rust blight, he is responsible for not only ending the wheat shortage in Mexico in the 1950s, but for saving more lives than perhaps any other person in history. One wheat harvest a year wasn’t good enough for Borlaug, he didn’t have the patience for it. He needed to figure out how to create a strain of wheat that was resistant to the rust, and he needed to do that as fast as he could. So he did. Borlaug shuttled seeds between Mexico City and the Yaqui Valley and was able to get two growing seasons in a year. In the early 1950s, 70% of the wheat in Mexico could be traced back to Borlaug’s shuttle-bred wheat strains. On October 20, 1970, while working in the fields, Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. "A solitary, stubborn, impatient, brilliant scientist was about to become an international hero, and an example of what an individual can accomplish in the quest to end hunger."1
Why don’t we all show that same amount of dedication in our day-to-day lives? Why can’t we be just as dedicated to ending hunger, to making sure every human gets the food that is rightfully theirs? We only get a short time on Earth; we shouldn’t have to spend it worrying about where our next meal is coming from. We should be spending it learning and growing, but without proper nutrition, growth can’t happen. Children can’t learn. Just as Norman Borlaug was so incredibly dedicated to creating the Green Revolution and as Texas A&M University is to upholding their strong traditions, we should be equally dedicated to putting an end to the world’s most solvable problem: hunger.
How will you become dedicated to ending the global hunger crisis?
1. Thurow R, Kilman S. Enough. New York: Public Affairs, 2009;15.
Small Body, Big Hearts, Grand Intent
APRIL 1, 2014
-- By Tray Heard, HungerU Crew
Strong connections are made when you spend long periods of time living in close proximity to the people you see every day—call it the "small-community effect". I grew up in the suburbs that fill the space between Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, the three cities that fed into my high school have a combined population of 130,000. My high school constantly enrolls around 3,000 students; dozens more schools of similar size are within a 25-mile radius. I attended college at Texas A&M, where the main-campus enrollment exceeds 50,000, making it one of the largest universities in the nation. No "small communities" in the bunch. You feel something different in the air when you find yourself in a community that matches the idea I stated above.
With a student BODY of just 6,000 students, Virginia State University proves my sentiment, everyone seems to know everyone. Groups of friends branch into other groups of friends who then branch into other groups. Faculty from different areas of study freely interact with students from outside their departments. Students, and friends, from polar opposite majors are constantly found walking in pairs or groups across campus. The dining halls are filled with groups made of 6 – 10 people sitting around a table, talking, joking and debating. This seemed somewhat foreign to me, A&M has such a large campus and student body that beyond the friends you made through camps and living arrangements freshman year, you spent most of your undergraduate years surrounded by those in your department’s classes, walking to and from the same buildings you frequented. The "small-community" setting has shown itself to be a major benefit for the HungerU Tour. We have no doubt had our greatest receptions at the two smallest schools we visited, Tuskegee and Virginia State. I believe the main reason behind this success is the trust one has in the beliefs, interests and opinions of their friends. If a student is interacting with the crew or our exhibit and a group of their friends or acquaintances walk past, they are that much more likely to engage as well, trusting their friend’s interest is valid. It has been amazing to see this in action, and we can only hope to have similar experiences at our remaining stops.
There was also a great sense of compassion shown by many of the students who spoke with us. Telling stories of the time they had spent volunteering at food banks, being involved in brown-bag meal packing events for the local shelters or the fundraising potlucks their churches had held to raise money for those less fortunate. Kind HEARTS were on full display as we found student after student had stories of when they had spent time working to help those in need or were seeking to find opportunities to do more in the future. Students, faculty and staff all across campus went out of their way to make us feel welcome and showed appreciation after learning about our tour and what we are working toward. We had some who approached us to volunteer their time, hoping to expand our reach on campus in the short amount of time we would be there. I had more students ask me about how they could become a member of the HungerU crew at VSU than I have at all our other stops combined; it was great to see the understanding they had of the notion that spreading awareness is one of the first steps in finding solutions to the problems we face. The sense of service and activism through volunteering showed by many of the students we spoke with is one of the greatest parts of our job, and I continue to be amazed about finding it within people from all different backgrounds.
The biggest surprise our crew had during our time at VSU was the faculty-arranged Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event held during our time on campus. These events are one of the main things the crew speaks about when asked by students for ways they can help create change at each stop. Having the VSU community put their support behind hosting a 10,000 meal event with such short notice was an amazing thing to observe. Paula McCapes, our campus coordinator, told me that following the excellent turnout they had for this first event, their INTENT is to host a 200,000 meal event in the near future. Along with this goal, plans have been put into motion to host a Food Forum at VSU that will help inspire more students to become activists for positive change. These events, along with the coordination to have the HungerU Tour on campus, were all planned in a few weeks, making the positive turnout and reception by VSU so much more satisfying. This is clearly a community that desires to make a difference.
Motivated to play a larger role in the movement of positive action and outreach—this sums up my thoughts on the Virginia State University. They showed this to the HungerU crew and myself through the activities the students involve themselves with outside of the classroom, the number of interested volunteers that showed up to help and lend a hand for the meal packaging event and certainly for the belief by so many people we interacted with that this is only the beginning of what they can accomplish. This "small community" has shown that little groups will always have the ability to make big changes, and fortunately the individuals that make up the VSU community have collectively made the decision that their impact will be in service of those that need help the most.
Ag Day and the Modern-day Superheroes
MAR 26, 2014
-- By Marshall Dolch, HungerU Crew
Let’s all take a moment to reflect on our childhood and the many fantasies that came with it. What pops into your head? Do you relive that feeling of knowing Santa Claus is coming to town with a sleigh full of presents for you to wake up to on Christmas morning? Maybe your mind wanders to your old front yard, where you and your friends spent countless hours running around playing cops and robbers with "stick guns." Or was it the first time you slipped on that red cape and pretended you were Superman gliding through outer space while fighting off the evil and elusive villains of our universe. Okay, Clark Kent, slow down for a hot second and allow me to explain.
The crew and I recently made our way to Capital City, U.S.A., to celebrate National Agriculture Day. Leading up to the event, we were especially excited to have our exhibit displayed on the National Mall overlooking our Capitol with the Washington Monument serving as a nice backdrop. What we didn’t count on was a late March snowstorm to roll through the district and provide us with a chilly blanket of precipitation. Nonetheless, the team stuck it out and braved the elements to honor our world’s most vital industry. If anything, it made me appreciate the American farmer EVEN more as thoughts of men and women tending to their livestock and carrying out their daily chores during the bitter temperatures danced around in my head.
This is what gravitated my train of thought towards those childhood fantasies. More specifically, the superheroes I idolized at such a young age. Superman, Batman and Spiderman were household names with incredible superpowers and a knack for saving the day … much like the average farmer. I mean, think about it. Those dreamt-up icons may have saved the day every once in a while, but a farmer saves the day morning, noon and night!
With that said, we can’t forget about the man who almost singlehandedly changed the outlook of agriculture while saving a billion people from starvation along the way. Dr. Norman Borlaug, often referred to as "The Father of the Green Revolution," worked in cooperation with other scientists to develop never before seen advances in crop technology. His research and dedication to feeding the world population and producing more with less led to his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.
When I focus on Dr. Borlaug, one word comes to mind: SERVANT. A human being who utilized his talents for the betterment of mankind. A gentleman obsessed with pushing the boundaries of agriculture, risking boldly, and opening doors for future scientists to improve the quality and quantity of our food supply while providing solutions to feed a growing population.
Now if that’s not superhero material, I’m not sure what is.
The late Dr. Borlaug was recognized at National Agriculture Day with the unveiling of his statue at the U.S. Capitol.
Fantasies and superheroes have always been a part of life, and so has agriculture. Just as Marvel and DC Comics were proud of their creations and Borlaug was of his research, you can be proud of where your food comes from by recognizing the contributions this industry has brought to the table.
The Patriot Act of Hunger
MAR 24, 2014
-- By Mollie Dykes, HungerU Crew
George Mason University is known for a number of things, including being the home of the Patriots, their diverse areas of study and for basketball enthusiasts, being the "Cinderella story" team in 2006 by miraculously making it to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament. However, when I think of George Mason University, I now think of a university passionate about the hunger crisis in the Fairfax, Virginia community and doing their part to combat it.
A patriot is defined as a person who loves and strongly supports or fights for his or her country. These students may not be fighting for their country, but they are definitely taking an active role in fighting hunger, and for that reason and in this sense, they deserve to be called patriots.
As I mentioned, GMU has a number of degrees that students can earn. During our two-day visit, I met students who were majoring in social work, education, software engineering and get ready for this one … conflict analysis and resolution. I had never heard of such a thing, but the more Leah told me about it, the more I was intrigued. As I met more and more students, each with their own plan of study and backgrounds, the more I realized that it doesn’t matter what our backgrounds or degrees are in. We can all join the fight against hunger.
One patriot who caught my attention while at GMU was Christina. Christina is a senior social work major who is currently doing research on food insecurity in Fairfax, Va. She has conducted a needs assessment by interviewing thirty different agencies and organizations that serve people who are food insecure. Christina’s research has discovered that the senior citizen population is the most food insecure group in Fairfax due to accessibility issues, fixed income and a number of other factors. Many of these individuals are able to obtain help from these agencies, but may choose not to because of diet or cultural restrictions.
Christina's research is going to be passed along to a group of GMU students who are interested in creating a campus kitchen as well as to the DC Central Kitchen. The ultimate goal of this research is to fill in the gaps of services by making food that is suitable for a variety of cultures, have nighttime delivery options and continue to support the senior population by making healthy and accessible meals. Christina is actively doing her part to make hunger a thing of the past in Fairfax. She is, without a doubt, a patriot within the hunger-fighting community.
Christina isn’t the only patriot I met, though. A majority of the students we spoke with are involved with fighting hunger in one way or another on campus. George Mason University has a chapter of Table For Two, which is an organization I had never heard of until now. It’s extremely simple how it works. You attend restaurants that have partnered with Table For Two and choose from their Table For Two menu. For every meal that is ordered from that menu, $0.25 is donated to feed a healthy lunch to a child in need. On college campuses with Table For Two chapters, you can purchase certain items that adhere to Table For Two’s healthy guidelines, and $0.25 will also be donated. To date, Table For Two has provided over fifty million lunches to children in need. For those children receiving meals, that’s at least one less tally mark to the number of meals they may or may not have missed.
GMU is also actively working toward starting their own chapter of The Campus Kitchens Project. They have submitted the paperwork and are now waiting to receive word back. I had the opportunity to speak with a few students who are involved with getting the ball rolling with this and they all had the same enthusiasm for decreasing food waste on their campus and ensuring that unserved food goes to someone who needs it on campus or in the community. Since 2001, The Campus Kitchens Project has been able to recover over three million pounds of food and has served over two million meals.
George Mason is full of patriots doing their part to fight the war on hunger. Hunger has been referred to as the world’s most solvable problem, and it’s going to take proactive individuals like the students at GMU joining forces to solve this problem. Our diverse backgrounds and skill sets allow us all to bring something to this war.
How will you utilize your background, your passions and/or your degree to solve the world’s most solvable problem?
See the Need, Fill the Need
MAR 16, 2014
-- By Mollie Dykes, HungerU Crew
After a rainy week in Alabama and Mississippi, the sunshine that greeted us at Louisiana State University was well received. Even though my sister attended LSU, I had never stepped foot on the campus until this point, and to be honest, I had no idea what to expect. We were greeted with luscious trees, beautiful architecture and Tiger-loving fans who are passionate about ending hunger in the Baton Rouge community.
Baton Rouge is a town of 230,000 mixed with southern and French charm. Visitors can tour the beautiful old state capitol, visit Mike the Tigerat LSU, eat some authentic Cajun food that will make you "wanna slap your momma," and shop till you drop at some of the unique locally owned boutiques. What many visitors fail to see though, is the poverty that has so profoundly affects this community. 30.3 percent of the Baton Rouge community lives below the poverty line. Several of the LSU students recognized this and knew that something had to be done.
On Monday, I met Scott. Scott is the president and co-founder of Kitchens on the Geaux(KOTG) on LSU’s campus. KOTG "strives to address food insecurity locally through spreading awareness and creating volunteer opportunities for LSU students." KOTG is doing a number of things to end hunger in the Baton Rouge community, including hosting mobile farmers markets, delivering unused food from local restaurants to food pantries and soup kitchens, and cooking breakfast every Sunday morning at Expressway Parkfor the downtown Baton Rouge community. Every morning, two KOTG members make the rounds of restaurants they have partnered with and pick up any unused food from the night before. It is prepared and packaged up and then delivered across campus and the community. The mobile farmers markets are for individuals who have limited access to fresh, locally grown produce, but it’s also an opportunity for them to learn how to grow their own produce from KOTG members and participating farmers.
In 2010, 33.79 million tons of food in the United States went to waste, but it’s small acts like Scott and the rest of the KOTG crew are doing that are helping reverse this statistic. Scott grew up in Baton Rouge and saw just how much food was going to waste, but also saw people in need every day. He saw the need to reduce waste and the need to help feed others. He is now helping fill that need.
On Tuesday, I met Marcio. Marcio was born and raised in Africa, but moved to the United States three years ago to study agricultural business at LSU. He told me that he doesn’t come from a family of farmers, but he understands the need for people in the agriculture industry. He has seen firsthand the struggle for food in his home country and wants to help end that struggle. Marcio went on to tell me that he wasn’t 100% sure what he wanted to do with his degree, but he knew that he wanted to go back to Africa and utilize it to fight hunger. Like Scott, Marcio sees the need and is working to fix that need.
Marcio and Scott are just two living examples at LSU who have identified needs in their communities and are taking steps to fulfill those needs. What needs do you see in your own community? How can you go about fulfilling them? Remember that one person can make a difference and it’s going to take all of us joining together to give hunger an expiration date.
Waiting on Water.
MAR 15, 2014
-- By Mallory Weber, HungerU Crew
Tulane University, nestled in the heart of New Orleans, is still decorated in beads left over from the celebration of Mardi Gras just a week before. We rolled in like a Green Wave and excitement came rushing over us. Over the next couple of days we would get the opportunity to talk to so many individuals from all kinds of places—from India to Singapore. What else do we know of that travels to many of these places? The Peace Corps.
While on campus we happened to pick up one of the campus newspapers, as we usually do, and the headline caught my attention. It read, "Tulane ranks among top Peace Corps volunteer-producing universities." Why did this headline catch my attention more than most? I grew up with an appreciation for the Peace Corps and hold a special place in my heart for it. Growing up, I spent a lot of time at my Aunt Amy and Uncle Ram?n’s house with my cousins. My Uncle Ram?n is from the Dominican Republic. My aunt met him during her two years in the Peace Corps during the early ’80s. I always loved hearing the stories she shared from her time in the Peace Corps. When I was in the 6th grade I brought her as my guest to talk about her time in the Peace Corps and to paint a picture of what life was like in the Dominican Republic. Times were tough, but in the area she was in they always had enough to eat. Water was another story. She said that any water they were going to drink needed to be boiled, though none of the locals did. She told us that their bodies had adapted to the parasites in the water.
My aunt and uncle go back to the Dominican Republic every year for the entire month of December, and even now they don’t have drinking water at their immediate disposal. What they do have are tanker trucks that deliver water to the villages. People take jugs to fill up and they pay for it—though it’s not expensive. We have drinking water, water fountains, eight different options of bottled water, tap water, water with lemon, flavored water, water however you want it … when you want it. Now, imagine not having that luxury. Imagine drinking water being a luxury. That isn’t something we often think about, but we should start.
Everyone should have access to water that’s safe enough to drink. Water, after all, is important to all kinds of life—humans and plants alike. Without water, crops can’t grow. Without crops, stomachs stay empty. With stomachs empty, and with that lack of nutrition, the possibility of advancement is null—even when that advancement is as simple as making water sources more readily available.
We don’t always realize that something we take for granted, the availability of safe water to drink, can lead to such a vicious cycle. Lack of water means lack of nutrition. Lack of nutrition leads to lack of strength. Lack of strength means lack of advancement. It is as simple as that. We sometimes have such a hard time remembering to think about something that doesn’t affect us directly.
Members of the Peace Corps see these things first hand and understand that vicious cycles like these need to end. They volunteer their time and lives to helping better the lives of other people. It takes a special kind of person to be willing to leave their life of "luxury" and put themselves right into places needing the most help. Tulane University should be proud to be home of 41 selfless individuals who so badly want to make the world a better place.
What will your part be in making the world a better place?
noun: a person who rises in opposition
MAR 8, 2014
-- By Mallory Weber, HungerU Crew
Ole Miss, home of the Rebels, is located in beautiful Oxford, Mississippi. Though our first day on campus may have been far from beautiful with a temperature of 32 degrees accompanied by freezing rain, Friday couldn’t have been better if I had ordered the weather myself! Sunshine, warm temps and passionate people. One of those people was Victor, a proud Rebel.
Victor and I talked for quite some time about a plethora of things: food security, hunger relief efforts in Oxford, where we come from, school, and many other things. All the while, as I listened to Victor talk, what I heard more than anything was his sincere passion and eagerness to help those around him. To help complete strangers, because if he doesn’t, who will?
If he doesn’t, then who will? The answer to that question shouldn’t be ‘no one.’ The answer should be ‘everyone.’ Why isn’t it? Why do we just assume that someone else with take care of the problem for us? Why do we see a food drive going on and instead of taking 5 minutes and 5 dollars to donate, blow it off and assume someone else will? Sometimes, that one can of food that you could’ve donated is the difference between someone having dinner that night, and adding another tally to the number of nights they’ve gone without.
Victor and I talked about the fact that so many people walk by donation sites every day without even noticing them. We tried to imagine what the amount of collected food would look like if every single person that passed by donated one item. However, they stay empty. We all follow the crowd and join as they pass by without giving. We talked about how frustrating it is that this is the one time we should be going against the crowd.
So, here’s an idea. Rebel. Rebel against what has become the norm. Make your own norm. Start donating to every drive you can. Grab your friends, get them to donate, too. Let’s make it a full-blown rebellion. Let’s turn the empty shelves of food banks and pantries that are begging for donations into shelves that are so full we are more worried about them giving way instead of dusting them.
Let’s give a new meaning to term the Rebels. Let’s make a rebellion against hunger. Let’s put an end to hunger, and if I know any one thing for certain, it’s that it’s going to take all of us.
Ole Miss has 18,794 proud Rebels. Are you going to be proud to call yourself a rebel in the rebellion against hunger?
The Power of One
MAR 5, 2014
-- By Marshall K. Dolch, HungerU Crew
There are lots of firsts in life. Like your first day of school, first date, first paycheck or first vacation, just to name a few. But what about the first time you helped someone out? If you’re like me, you probably don’t remember when that was. Not because you’ve never assisted anybody, but because it was more than likely when you were just a wee little tike.
The encore to our Auburn/Universities Fighting World Hunger stop took place in Tuskegee, Alabama, at the historic Tuskegee University. I was extremely excited to visit this campus for a couple reasons before arriving, but following our stop, I was excited to have visited for many more. The first reason was because Tuskegee is the centerpiece of two fantastic movies: "Tuskegee Airmen" and "Red Tails". If you haven’t seen either, please do! Second, this is the college where one of agriculture’s brightest minds did much of his work. That bright mind happened to belong to George Washington Carver, a former Iowa State University student.
While both of our days turned out to be a little chillier than we had hoped for, Mother Nature’s antics did not put a damper on the wonderful conversations the crew was able to have with students. Needless to say, we walked away thoroughly impressed. One conversation stood out in particular, though.
A young man named Atiba took several minutes out of his day to tell us a touching story. While walking through downtown Manhattan, New York, one night, he came across a homeless lady who was injured, shivering and hungry. After a trip to the nearest grocery store, Atiba brought the woman some soup and soon followed it up with a phone call to his dad asking if he could pick them up and provide her with a place to shower and sleep for the night. There was deliberation, but Atiba’s father agreed to make the drive and allowed her to use the guest bedroom for the evening.
What started out as a night’s stay blossomed into something much greater. Within days, Atiba’s father had gotten the woman a job. Taking advantage of the newfound opportunity, she worked her way back on her feet and did so in wonderful fashion. Now, almost five years later, the once injured, shivering, hungry and homeless woman is a branch manager with a corporate bank and still keeps in touch with Atiba to this day.
Not only is that a story of incredible perseverance, but a testimony to how one person’s actions can make a world of difference. Atiba didn’t have to stop and offer the woman a helping hand, but he did, and he is a better man for it. I wanted to share this story with you because YOU can make an impact, too. It might not look anything like Atiba’s, but an impact is an impact no matter how big or small.
Think about how different our society would be if every person adopted Atiba’s desire to help others. Even though he was only one, his influence was certainly felt. The same goes for the fight against world hunger. Whatever that fight looks like in your eyes, BELIEVE that you can leave an imprint. As my fellow Cyclone George Washington Carver once said, "It is not the style of clothes one wears, neither the kind of automobile one drives, nor the amount of money one has in the bank, that counts. These mean nothing. It is simply service that measures success."
Making a difference takes commitment, and commitment starts with you. How will you respond?
Universities Fighting World Hunger at Auburn: Empathy Fighting Apathy
MAR 3, 2014
-- By Tray Heard, HungerU Crew
Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent. The words listed above are the 12 points of Boy Scout Law. The time we spent talking with Boy Scouts, college students and policy leaders in Auburn for the Universities Fighting World Hunger (UFWH) Annual Summit proved they are not just words the scouts know by heart, but ideals that many people strive for when working to lessen the struggles of others.
Young, intelligent, well-spoken and hopeful, those are the words I would use to describe the group of young men we met. They were visiting the Auburn campus to earn a merit badge for their respective troops, attracted to our trailer’s location because of the pedal tractors we have for people to take for a ride. They stuck around to talk about the hunger crisis and offered up solutions as if they were studying agricultural policy at the university.
Mallory and I were blown away by their observations about the state of things and their ideas about ways to change the status quo. "The best part is that it’s the youth who shape tomorrow. So eventually, it’s going to be up to us and we can make the change [to end hunger]," said one of the taller scouts in the group. Speaking beyond their years about agriculture, industrialization and water deprivation, they showed an understanding of how change is brought about that many people three times their age simply don’t comprehend.
That is not to say we did not meet other young people with similar ideals and a clear understanding of the issues at hand. Being on campus during the UFWH annual summit created an amazing opportunity to speak with college students and professionals from across the country who understand the hunger crisis and are working to create solutions. I had the chance to speak with several Auburn University students who attended the summit and they all, some agriculture majors and some not, appreciated what the HungerU Tour stands for. I, in turn, told them how much I appreciated the work that they have been doing long before we arrived with our exhibit.
The biggest highlight of being on campus during the UFWH event was the visits we had from the speakers, panelists, board members and attendees of the summit. Having policy affecters from Washington, D.C., who work for organizations like the World Food Programme and the Food & Agriculture Organization at our exhibit was an amazing thing to see. David Lambert, a board member of the Farm Journal Foundation-the group that helps HungerU exist-was in town for the summit and meeting with him as he saw our exhibit for the first time was an honor. Roger Thurow, former Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent and author of two books chronicling the hunger crisis that should be required reading for anyone hoping to understand this issue, made a stop by our exhibit before opening up the summit with this rousing quote, "We need outrage and inspiration to make the impossible become reality."
Multiple representatives of universities from across the country were able to come by our exhibit and after speaking with them we hope the impression we left will allow new colleges to be added to future tours. The appreciation they all showed for the work our crew is doing was incredible and I couldn’t help but swell with pride with their kind words of encouragement.
We packed up as the sun started to sneak behind Jordan-Hare Stadium, the "Campus Green" emptying of the large groups of Boy Scouts, science competition attendees and Auburn students who had come out to make the most of the beautiful Saturday afternoon weather. Our time at Auburn University was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, in every sense of the word.
Meeting and talking with people of all ages and from so many different backgrounds, all coming together with a common understanding of the crisis that affects us all and a strong determination to find solutions was as uplifting a start to our tour as any of us could have hoped for. As we travel to our next destination I’m optimistic that we can find more and more students, young people and vocal supporters who are as empathetic to the struggles of others as those we found in Auburn, Alabama.
Roger Thurow, author of Enough and The Last Hunger Season, with Marshall, Mollie, Tray and Mallory.
War Eagles Waging a War on Hunger
FEB 29, 2014
-- By Mollie Dykes, HungerU Crew
I have been a long-time football fan, especially SEC football, so visiting the Auburn University campus for our first stop on the Spring 2014 Tour was sheer perfection for me. This is definitely a campus that LOVES their football team, and with good reason. Another thing this campus loves is their War on Hunger Initiative, which is creating a large ripple effect of change.
Auburn takes part in several efforts to battle hunger in their community, including the Beat ’Bama Food Drive in conjunction with the annual Iron Bowl. This past year, Auburn set a goal of raising 350,000 pounds of food because that’s the amount of food that the Food Bank of East Alabama hands out in one month.
Check out the awesome 2013 video promoting the food drive:
What I love most about this food drive is how they take a major event such as the Iron Bowl to bring awareness to the crisis. Auburn and the University of Alabama are able to put their fierce rivalry aside momentarily and work together to fight for an important cause. Everyone involved is able to learn about the hunger issue and take part in ending it. With that said, they still compete to see which school can collect the most food.
They also host an annual hunger week that leads up to the Iron Bowl where several events take place to bring even more awareness about the hunger crisis and educate students about how they can help. Restaurants across town volunteer to donate a portion of their profits to fighting hunger when students come to eat and there is a lecture series featuring speakers who are well known for their hunger-fighting efforts. Students are also given the opportunity to participate in a meal preparation event with Auburn’s chapter of The Campus Kitchens Project.
I spoke with several students who had taken part in these events and their passion for ending hunger is ten kinds of inspiring. Elizabeth has a goal to join the Peace Corps after she graduates college. Alex attended the LeaderShape Institute where they were all fed 25 cent meals one night of the conference. He told me that it was an eye-opening moment seeing just how little he got for 25 cents and realizing that many people live on even less than that per day. Anna Leigh comes from a large farm in northern Alabama where she and her brothers are doing their part to feed the rapidly growing population by raising corn, wheat and soybeans.
The War Eagle pride runs deep in every Auburn student, but even more importantly, you can see the spirit and desire to do their part to end hunger. The most important thing I learned from the Auburn students is that we can all do something to help fight hunger. Whether it’s doing something as simple as donating to a local food drive or something as big as joining the Peace Corps as Elizabeth plans to do, we can all join in on this fight together. I’m now even more inspired to do my part. Also, because of what Auburn stands for, I’ll be making the extra effort to cheer for Auburn from here on out … as long as they aren’t playing my beloved Razorbacks. :)
Read the 2013 HungerU Blog Archive.