Earlier this year, Le’Ron Byrd, a senior, received a $3,000 grant from the Institute for Public Engagement to conduct research on child food insecurity in Winston-Salem. He developed an interest in local hunger issues after taking a sociology course taught by Ana Wahl.
Since May, Byrd has been interning and volunteering with different community organizations, trying to find and be part of a solution to end local hunger. He will be among 50 Wake Forest students and 150 representatives from 25 universities across the state participating in the N.C. Campuses Against Hunger Conference this week. He plans to further his research on food insecurity, but he also wants to learn how Wake Forest and other campuses in the region can work together to solve hunger issues.
Rather than putting a Band-Aid on a wound, Wake Forest students, faculty and staff continue to take a proactive approach in preventing and eradicating hunger and bringing about systemic change.
The misconceptions of hunger
“Many people don’t understand that food insecurity is not just about people in faraway places that literally have ‘no food,’” says Brittany Forniotis, a junior from Matthews, N.C., “Hunger also affects lower middle class American families that are struggling to put a variety of nutritious foods on their table.”
As student co-chair of the Hunger Board, a leadership team at Wake Forest that unites students, faculty, staff and organizations committed to fighting hunger, Forniotis’ is looking forward to the best practice sessions at the conference to help her gain creative ideas in leading the Hunger Board with faculty co-chair Natascha Romeo.
More than 170,000 people in North Carolina receive emergency food assistance in any given week. Healthy, affordable food can be hard to find. Despite food abundance in the state, many are food insecure, lacking access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. Lack of transportation to grocery stores and confusion over what foods are nutritious contribute to this multifaceted problem.
Since Wake Forest had the largest attendance at the first N.C. Campuses Against Hunger Conference held at Elon University in 2012, the University was asked to host the 2013 conference. The conference provides a forum for participants, including community partners, to better understand and address hunger issues, collaborate with peers, and find solutions to end local and regional hunger.
In addition to hearing from experts on different topics related to food insecurity, attendees will participate in breakout sessions discussing best practices to combat hunger, and have the opportunity to engage in one of two service projects with Stop Hunger Now meal packaging or Campus Kitchen food distribution.
When the conference concludes, the conversations will continue. Regional partners and leaders will work in partnership with one another throughout the coming year. The conference will be a springboard for ideas and efforts to eliminate hunger in North Carolina.