AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Ending Child Hunger in Alabama, a new statewide campaign to reduce food insecurity among Alabama’s school children, is the first outreach initiative for the Hunger Solutions Institute at Auburn University.
The Hunger Solutions Institute was established in 2012 by the College of Human Sciences and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station to assist Auburn in its efforts to end hunger at home and abroad.
June Henton, dean of the College of Human Sciences and executive director of the Hunger Solutions Institute, Alabama Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey and other state leaders officially kicked off the campaign April 29 from Wares Ferry Road Elementary School in Montgomery.
“It is an uncomfortable truth that children in our state, our counties and even our own neighborhoods are hungry and they may not know where their next meal will come from,” said Ivey. “As lieutenant governor, I cannot sit back and know children in our state are going hungry. It is time to take action. I am pleased to join this collaborative effort to address the pressing issue of child hunger and food insecurity.”
With nearly one-third of Alabama’s children living in families that experience food hardships, the goal of the Ending Child Hunger in Alabama campaign is to move Alabama into the top 25 percent of states with the highest degree of child food security by 2020.
State School Superintendent Tommy Bice said public schools in Alabama served 95 million lunches last year and 60 percent of those were free.
The campaign will focus on strategies that increase Alabama families’ economic stability; cultivate a strong regional food system; improve the food assistance safety net for children; support community action to increase children’s health and prevent obesity; and build public will to end childhood hunger.
“Many Alabamians don’t realize how many children do not have adequate nutrition,” said Kristina Scott, executive director of Alabama Possible-Alabama Poverty Project. “The good news is that this is a solvable problem. We have a range of solutions – public, private, faith-based and community-driven to ensure that no child goes hungry. It is time to come together and take action.”
First-year goals include expanding the reach of summer feeding programs for children in Alabama; completion of an environmental scan to provide a comprehensive overview of Alabama’s existing resources to address child hunger; development of a strong advertising and marketing campaign to build awareness and understanding of child hunger and the strong relationship between hunger and obesity.
Henton and Harriet Giles, director of external relations for the College of Human Sciences and managing director of the Hunger Solutions Institute, are credited with starting Auburn’s role in the global war on hunger. In 2004, they spearheaded a partnership with the United Nations World Food Programme and established the War on Hunger campaign on campus. As the effort grew and various hunger and sustainability initiatives began throughout campus, Henton and Giles led another charge by Auburn and the World Food Programme to develop a global movement, Universities Fighting World Hunger. There are now more than 300 colleges and universities worldwide following Auburn’s model in the fight against hunger and malnutrition at home and abroad.
(Written by Amy Weaver.)