Facing Hunger

The statistics are nothing less than sobering.

About 795 million of the world’s more than 7 billion people are undernourished, and most are living in developing countries, according to the United Nations’ World Food Programme.

Domestically, Feeding America data shows that 29.1 million American adults and 13.1 million children live in food-insecure households as of 2015. Even closer to home, more than 1.7 million Georgians — around 17 percent of the state’s population — are food insecure.

In an effort to combat this epidemic, Hiram Larew (BSA – Horticulture, ’75), adjunct professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication (ALEC) in the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, member of the CAES Dean’s Advisory Council and Office of Global Programs collaborator, established the college’s Global Food Security Fund. The fund will provide CAES students with the financial means to study and take on food insecurity and malnutrition on local, statewide and international scales through work, service, study and research.

“The point of this fund is to allow students who are interested in trying to address that problem to study it, research it and understand it, then to apply what they learn, wherever they learn it, to other places,” Larew said.

Larew and ALEC Associate Professor Maria Navarro, who established the fund’s purpose with Larew, wanted to put into place a funding source for students who want to address food insecurity individually, “outside of the most traveled path” and independent of existing programs.

As an example of the kind of work the fund will support, student Ty Brooks immersed himself in Ethiopian culture and agriculture last summer. He conducted field observations and interviews with smallholder farmers in an effort to learn about the conditions of farmers with limited access to resources. Brooks was exploring how perennial sorghum might “fit into global agricultural systems at varying scales.”

“I not only learned about the challenges facing farmers in this context, but gained an appreciation of the complexity of factors at play while working globally … Through this experience I gained knowledge that would serve me well in future global agricultural work,” Brooks wrote.

Existing programs tend to address food insecurity at the international level, but food insecurity exists at the community, state and national levels, too. Larew and Navarro wanted to enable students to explore the issue close to home and on campus, a prospect that may not require as much travel, but still requires funding.

“We’re encouraging students to impact food security … by mentoring and supporting them economically,” Navarro said.

The fund is open to contributions from anyone who feels compelled to donate.

“Hunger is a key concern that exists worldwide, and none of us, no place, is without it,” Larew said. “Within five to 10 years, I’d like to see 20 to 50 students in CAES use the funds to help support their interest in (studying) hunger on campus, hunger in the county, hunger in the state, hunger in the U.S. and hunger around the world.”

To contribute to the fund, contact the CAES Office of External Relations at 706-542-3390, external@uga.edu, or visit the Campaign for the University of Georgia online and click “Give Now.” Be sure to select CAES from the school or college menu, and “Global Food Security Fund” as the designation.

By Kathryn Schiliro

Pictured: Of the world's more than 7 billion people, 1 in 9 are undernourished, according to the United Nations' World Food Programme. Research is being conducted at UGA that will improve millet (pictured), a dietary staple for those in eastern Africa and southern Asia. Collage by Katie Walker