Hunger and food insecurity are prominent global issues on the rise that are often perceived as associated with countries other than the United States, but a recent study found these issues impacting the well-being of individuals, families, and communities on our campus and in Tennessee.
The study revealed that in the University of Tennessee System, 33.8% of students were food insecure. This means, one out of every three students at UT identified themselves as food insecure (Wooten et al., 2019).
In UT’s efforts to reach the United Nations’ goal of zero hunger by 2030, The End Hunger / FEED Change (EHFC) initiative was launched in 2020 to raise awareness and improve our community. The EH/FC working group focused on four core areas of education, outreach, policy, and fundraising to achieve their mission.
“The End Huger/FEED change initiative is a collective effort across campus to highlight and increase awareness of all the ways UT is helping to address hunger, from campus, in the state of TN, and across the world.” said David Ader, Research Assistant Professor and the Assistant Director of the Smith Center for International Sustainable Agriculture.
“UT has made some great steps forward, and we are excited about all the activities and programs that are being put into place to help people be healthy,” Ader added. “We have a long way to go to eradicate hunger, and we look to UT and the volunteer community to lead the way.”
Throughout their first year, EHFC has made great strides in achieving food security on campus and beyond. There have been a variety of efforts made across campus to address hunger issues, such as the Big Orange Pantry and Big Orange Meal Share. The Big Orange Pantry added an on-campus location in late 2020 to serve UT Students, while Big Orange Meal Share allows students to donate extra guest-meal swipes to be used by students-in-need at campus dining facilities.
“I am thrilled that the Dean of Students office opened the Big Orange Pantry this fall.” Said Gretchen Neisler, Vice Provost for International Affairs, and Director of the Center for Global Engagement. “This is a much-needed service to our students. I am also excited that this has caught the attention and support of UT alumni. I hope that the EHFC initiative can work alongside the BOP to expand their reach and programming to our campus community.”
Many other activities can be found in this EHFC annual report.
EHFC and UT also made an impact off-campus and expanded the mission’s outreach. UT engaged with all 95 counties in the state of Tennessee by working with the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences to address a state-wide food scarcity problem.
To achieve the United Nations’ goal of zero hunger by 2030, EHFC and UT will continue to make efforts and develop plans in order to successfully address food insecurity on a local and global scale.
Looking forward to making a sustainable change on campus, a food recovery plan proposed by UT’s Culinary Institute Program is under review to be implemented in Fall 2021. The Food 4 All proposal addresses the food insecurity of students by focusing on food recovery, transformation, and distribution.
“I remain impressed by the commitment and creativity of our student leaders around this challenge. They are actively engaged and bring vibrant and spirited input to our thinking. They embody the Volunteer Spirit in the work that they are doing to solve hunger at UT.” Said Neisler.