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K-State Today

February 7, 2013

From the Provost's Office: Universities Fighting World Hunger

Submitted by April Mason

April Mason

Dear Colleagues,

I will never forget working in Indonesia in 1988 at the Institut Pertanian Bogor giving a seminar on nutrition related to my research on trace minerals from plant food products. During the question and answer period, a student related the nutrition problems in her country: iron deficiency anemia, vitamin A deficiency blindness, and iodine deficiency goiter. She then asked me, “What are the nutrition issues in the U.S.?” I paused and indicated that iron deficiency was a problem for some, but the biggest nutritional issue was the lack of quality diets for a large number of U.S. residents and an increasing problem with obesity.

Unfortunately, 25 years later the answer is still the same.

Some, and an increasingly far too many, in our country do not have access at all times to enough and the quality of food to support an active healthy life — a prerequisite for health and productivity and the definition of food security. The 2012 Kansas Hunger Atlas: At the Intersection of Poverty and Potential put out by the Kansas Association of Community Action Programs indicates in Riley County 16.2 percent our population — that's 11,150 members of our community — is food insecure. In Geary County it's 16.4 percent or 4,950 people, and in Pottawatomie County it's 11.4 percent or 2,360 people. The state is 15 percent food insecure, or 428,490 people do not have access at all times to enough and quality food.

Multiply that number by our 50 states. During 2012, more than 48 million families in the United States — 14.5 percent of the population — worried at some time during the year about not having enough to eat. Between 2011 and 2012, an estimated 48 million Americans — 16.2 million of that number being children — worried about not having enough to eat. Globally almost one in six people in the world suffers from lack of proper food; 25,000 people die each day from hunger — more than tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS combined.

As a leading land-grant institution, engaging as a university to address real world problems is core to who we are. Hunger, food insecurity and poor nutrition are global issues critical to our future. This year, Kansas is hosting Raising the Volume: Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit. The event will be in Overland Park from March 2-4. The hunger summit was started eight years ago at Auburn University by students, faculty and community members who said they wanted to make a difference in the facts and figures I listed above. Building on two years of a statewide Hunger Dialogue, Kansas Board of Regents community colleges and universities have worked with the independent colleges of Kansas and Kansas Campus Compact to coordinate this year’s summit.

This conference is an international conversation to bring together experts to discuss the current food insecurity and hunger issue, to share strategies to address hunger used on campuses and in communities around the world, and — perhaps most importantly — to call us to action. Much will be done at the conference, but more is expected after the conference. What can we do at Kansas State University to affect change, help those in need and address the growing issue of food insecurity here in our own community and nation, and worldwide? What are we already doing that we can highlight and work hard to support?

Join the conversation. Raise the volume to make a change to this critical thief of human potential — hunger, food insecurity and poor nutrition. Each of us can make a difference.  

Thank you for what you do,

April Mason's Signature

April Mason

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