October 4, 2011
Continuing the hunger dialogue: A call to action
Every day, thousands of Kansas college students walk into dining halls, grab a tray or a plate, and choose from a vast array of foods. The image is an iconic one. We may wish that students ate more of the grilled vegetables instead of that slice of pepperoni pizza, or chose to drink a glass of water instead of a can of soda. But by-and-large, a great many Kansas college students do not go hungry. On the contrary, counselors warn many incoming students of the proverbial freshman weight gain that stems from ready access to an adequate, albeit perhaps less than healthy, food supply.
But not all Kansas college students can afford to eat so well. The reality is that many are going hungry, and not just "I only ate ramen noodles and bologna sandwiches this week" hungry. Across the nation, colleges are seeing significant upticks in the number of students applying for food stamp assistance. These young people are not alone. They are part of the more than 50 million Americans who worry about not being able to afford a meal or have enough to eat. Those facing hunger include more than 17 million children and nearly 1 million seniors. And the hungry include nearly 400,000 Kansans, exceeding the national state average. These are unacceptable facts in a country of such plenty.
The challenges are even more daunting at a global level. One in six people in the world lack sufficient food. More than 25,000 people die every day from hunger — more than from tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS combined. These are unacceptable facts in today's global community that encompasses a society in which we must prepare our students to function successfully.
In response to this crisis of hunger across our globe as well as in our very own backyard, students, faculty, staff and administrators from colleges and universities across Kansas are uniting with their broader communities to answer a compelling call to action. United Nations World Food Day is Oct. 16. During October, Kansas colleges and universities will be hosting food-packaging events to raise awareness about hunger and our ability to address it in Kansas and throughout the world. These events, which can be found at swipeouthunger.com, are supported by Numana Inc., an El Dorado, Kan.-based nonprofit that facilitates food packaging events where volunteers serve together to assemble simple nutritious meals for global famine relief.
Yet those on our college campuses cannot end hunger on their own. By the end of the month, Kansans will have packaged nearly 600,000 healthy meals to be shipped to the Horn of Africa where the population is suffering a severe famine. Packaging these meals takes many hands and we call on our colleagues and community members to come and join our students in these events.
Even with these laudable efforts, one month of action will not end hunger in Kansas or around the world. We need a collective commitment — from our elected representatives and our leaders in higher education, business and the philanthropic sector, from family, friends, neighbors and community leaders — to confront hunger and end it so that the millions of people can worry less whether they will be able to eat and focus more on how they can contribute productively to our society.
The Kansas system of higher education, armed with its greatest resource — our students — is prepared to answer the call.
Please, will you join us?
Dr. Jackie Vietti, president, Butler Community College
Dr. April Mason, provost, Kansas State University
Doug Penner, president, Kansas Independent Colleges Association
Matt Lindsey, executive director, Kansas Campus Compact