Representing six continents of the world, leaders from more than 50 universities are joining forces with international and domestic multi-sector leaders to solve food insecurity.
On Dec. 9, university leaders – representing virtually every type of institute of higher learning from all over the world – will join with multi-sector leaders in this area at a signing ceremony and hunger forum in the ECOSOC Chamber of the United Nations in New York City.
Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, spearheaded the creation of PUSH – Presidents United to Solve Hunger – as the result of a meeting of last February in Auburn. There, leaders from universities in the U.S., Canada and Central America discussed how collective action through sharing of best practices and collaborative opportunities could accelerate solving these global challenges.
The Presidents’ Commitment to Food and Nutrition Security – a declaration acknowledging their commitment to make food insecurity a priority – is a direct result of the meeting.
“What makes this event especially significant is the recognition that universities have a tremendous role to play in addressing global grand challenges,” said Auburn University President Jay Gogue. “Our institutions have a deep faculty talent pool, an energetic, innovative population of students, an unprecedented commitment from top leadership, and a staying power from generation to generation that lends itself to tackling long-term issues like hunger.”
The Hunger Forum and Public Signing Ceremony on Dec. 9 provides a unique opportunity for students and university leaders to be united in the effort with international organizations, NGOs and student groups at the United Nations an international focus on the solutions that universities can bring.
Auburn has been a global leader in the fight against hunger since partnering with the United Nations World Food Programme in 2004. Auburn’s War on Hunger campaign and relationship with WFP led to the formation of Universities Fighting World Hunger (UFWH). The UFWH movement now has a worldwide coalition of more than 300 colleges and universities.
UFWH affiliates have met annually since 2006 to share ideas and best practices related to local and global hunger. To take the movement to the next level, leaders from more than 30 universities in the U.S., Canada and Central America gathered in February 2014 to discuss taking collective action against food insecurity and malnutrition. The gathering preceded the ninth annual UFWH Summit at Auburn University. It was organized by Auburn’s Hunger Solutions Institute and co-sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. PUSH and the Presidents’ Commitment to Food and Nutrition Security are both direct results of the February meeting.
PUSH member institutions include land-grants, liberal arts, faith-based, historically black and Hispanic-serving colleges and universities from five continents. Auburn is joined by Tuskegee University and also fellow SEC members Mississippi State, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas and Alabama.
Tuskegee University student Alexander Gibson encouraged his president to join the effort immediately after hearing about it. “As an individual who grew up on the streets not knowing where my next meal was coming from, I understand the situation of hunger and poverty. If we can avoid others from going through what I went through I believe this could possibly change the world but it has to start here and now. That is why I went to my President to PUSH him to sign the Presidents’ Commitment to Food and Nutrition Security.”
“Land-grant universities have always supported the advancement of food security through research, teaching, and outreach as part of their historical mission,” said Mark Keenum, president of Mississippi State University and PUSH steering committee chair. “I am excited to see so many land-grants – from UC Davis to Cornell and Penn State – joining the PUSH movement. But I am even more encouraged to see schools of every size, background, and even nationality join in. It is through this joint commitment, collaborative effort and sharing of best practices that we will be able to accomplish this ambitious – but achievable – goal of ending hunger.”
Legendary in-state rivals in the athletic arena, Auburn and Alabama have also battled each other for the past 20 years with an annual food drive benefiting the Food Bank of East Alabama and the West Alabama Food Bank.
“While Alabama and Auburn may battle it out on the football field, I am so proud of the young men and women from both schools who work in partnership each year to combat hunger in our communities,” said University of Alabama President Judy Bonner. “By signing the Presidents’ Commitment to Food and Nutrition Security, I am pleased to work with President Gogue and nearly 50 other presidents from around the world who are standing together to say that hunger and malnutrition have no place in the 21st century.”
Participation in PUSH enables members to share their collective knowledge in areas where hunger is historically addressed at academic institutions: teaching, research, outreach and student engagement. One of the first action items in the Presidents’ Commitment to Food and Nutrition Security is an inventory and mapping exercise so all schools can register their food and nutrition security work in these four major areas.
“Most universities are already contributing to food security across their programmatic agendas,” said Hunger Solutions Executive Director Dean June Henton, founder of UFWH and HSI. “But PUSH will accelerate individual university achievements in two distinct ways. First, additional strength will come through the power of collective action and commitment to share best practices. Second, it will give universities a strong and unified voice at the multi-sector table as the world defines sustainable food security initiatives going forward.”