By Katie Pratt
Dialogue participants educated themselves on
common hunger terminology during one exercise.
The dialogue, hosted by the UK Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment and the Kentucky Campus Compact, was the first meeting of its kind in the state. It began with a vision from UK students who learned about dialogues hosted in other states at a summit last February. The event kicked off National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week at UK.
Food insecurity is a topic that hits home for too many college students and Kentuckians. According to a recent study, more than half of all American college students experience hunger. In Kentucky, about 17 percent of the population experiences food insecurity.
The event drew 120 participants from seven Kentucky colleges and universities, as well as community members.
“I attended the Kentucky Hunger Dialogue to share about the work of The Campus Kitchen at the University of Kentucky. I was interested in how policy bridges the gap for programs like Campus Kitchen and God’s Pantry,” said Connor VanMeter, president of The Campus Kitchen at UK and a junior majoring in agricultural biotechnology.
UK has several programs that address hunger on campus and in Lexington. The Campus Kitchen at the University of Kentucky gleans food that would otherwise go to waste from UK Dining, UK South Farm and farmers’ markets and turns the food into free, nutritious meals for Lexington citizens. The Big Blue Pantry is an on-campus food pantry for students and staff. Students also have the opportunity to become involved with SSTOP Hunger: Sustainable Solutions to Overcome Poverty.
During the event, participants heard from UK President Eli Capilouto and keynote speaker Colmon Elridge, director of The Council of State Government’s National Center for Interstate Compacts. Elridge shared his personal story of growing up in poverty and experiencing hunger.
In the afternoon, participants attended breakout sessions designed to get them thinking about ways to end hunger on college campuses and Kentucky communities.
“This event gathered individuals with diverse backgrounds to solve the most outrageous issue crippling our nation. It is unacceptable in 2016 for a child to go to bed hungry. Our country now depends on this generation to eradicate hunger, and after today, I am confident they will,” said Amanda Hege, event organizer and director of community outreach in the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition.
The 2nd Annual Kentucky Hunger Dialogue will be hosted at Berea College in 2017.