Elon hosts higher education forum for fighting hunger
Co-sponsored by three nonprofits and college programs, the event challenged guests to “harness the power” of N.C. students and faculty.
A leading advocate in the fight against global hunger is urging North Carolina higher education institutions to coordinate their efforts in battling one of the biggest social ills facing the planet in the years ahead.
June Henton, dean of the College of Human Sciences and director of the International Hunger Institute at Auburn University, served as the morning keynote speaker on Oct. 11, 2012, as part of a "hunger summit" titled North Carolina Campuses Against Hunger: A Call to Action to End Hunger in Our Lifetime.
The program hosted by Elon University in McKinnon Hall was co-sponsored by Stop Hunger Now, North Carolina State University’s Center for Student Leadership, Ethics & Public Service, and North Carolina Campus Compact.
“It’s time for universities to step up to the plate, not to leave behind our objectivity and scholarly pursuits, but to use them in collaborating with our peer institutions and others in the public and private sectors to end hunger in our lifetimes,” Henton said. “When you consider the talent universities can bring to bear around this issue, locally and globally, and to do it in alignment with their existing priorities, it is simply inexcusable to sit on the sidelines any longer.”
More than 100 students, professors and administrators registered for the forum, with schools from across the state represented in the poster sessions and breakout work groups that were also part of the schedule.
“Joining the war on hunger might be a way to not only pursue personal passions, but to analyze dynamics of hunger related to economic, political and religious realities around the world,” Henton said. “It’s a way to more fully inform students about how land, water and energy affect the ability to produce and gain access to food and it is a way to open the dialogue with students about how the health and wellbeing of the greatest nations of the world can be severely compromised when people go hungry.”
In 2004, under Henton’s leadership, Auburn was invited to partner with the UN World Food Programme in a higher education war on hunger campaign. The Auburn/WFP educational model addresses both short-term and long-term solutions to alleviating hunger through an action agenda that encompasses hunger awareness, consciousness-raising, and fundraising; advocacy; and academic initiatives including teaching, research and outreach.
An outgrowth of the Auburn/WFP partnership has been the establishment of Universities Fighting World Hunger, which Henton founded in 2006 at the inaugural University Hunger Summit sponsored by Auburn University. UFWH works with the World Food Programme to engage students directly in hunger-reduction strategies and to create and/or adapt curricula that will educate students about issues of human sustainability and social justice.
“I say let’s not wait on the politicians (to solve this problem),” Henton said. “Right here today, let’s decide that we’re going to work together. Let’s elect to take matters in our own hands. Let’s elect to mobilize and harness the power of university students and faculty all across North Carolina’s higher education system in the fight against hunger.”
Henton’s remarks were preceded by a welcome from Elon University President Leo M. Lambert. Lambert shared with his audience some of the ways the university is engaging with the community to raise economic, health and educational standings for all people.
“Our best hope remains education,” Lambert said. “We are engaged in our community in many, many different ways, where families are being transformed through the power of education. We are seeing families right before our eyes move from poverty and into much more secure situations as a result of educational success.”
At Elon, such efforts include the Elon Academy, a college access and success program for promising Alamance County high school students who come from families with limited means or no prior history of college attendance, and The Village Project, an initiative through the School of Education to bring local families, teachers and Elon students together to assist children who struggle with reading.
“We’re committed more broadly to preparing each and every one of our students to be global citizens concerned with how to use the privilege they have attending Elon University as a mechanism to make a difference in the lives of other people who are far less privileged. I think that reflects the ethic and the soul of this institution,” Lambert said. “Don't doubt the impact your work is going to have many years from now through all the lives you are touching today through your work on college campuses.”