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Fighting hunger takes center stage at Elon summit

Dozens of campus & community advocates gathered Feb. 19 to share ideas and coordinate efforts for alleviating local hunger.

April Durr '01, executive director of Healthy Alamance, speaks at the Feb. 19 Hunger Summit at Elon University.

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With chronic hunger harming nearly one out of every five Alamance County residents, campus and community leaders gathered Tuesday evening to discuss collaborative efforts that push back against the problem.

The Hunger Summit at Elon University featured keynote remarks from April Durr ‘01, a former human services major now serving as executive director of Healthy Alamance, a coalition of nonprofits and service agencies whose missions are to promote healthy lifestyle habits and nutrition in the greater Alamance County community.

Durr shared data from the 2011 Alamance Community Assessment with about 70 students, professors, staff members and activists in the university's new Lakeside Meeting Rooms. In the United States, about one in seven people confront hunger challenges every day, defined as the inability to meet sufficient basic dietary needs. “It’s at an individual level that results from food insecurity,” she said.

In Alamance County, 19 percent of the population is “food insecure,” she said.

Also, more than half of students enrolled in the Alamance-Burlington School System are using the free and reduced lunch program, Durr said. She then cited data from a 2011 Elon University Poll that found 64 percent of Alamance County residents knew someone in their family or a close friend who does not have enough money to pay bills.

A significant number of local residents live in a “food desert” where access to healthy food from a grocery store is more than a mile away, and for those without money, snack foods or fast food is the only viable and affordable option. Durr said that such factors make it tough for families to make sound nutritional choices.

“More and more people are becoming aware of healthy foods and are more aware of what they’re putting into their children’s diet,” she said. “If you’re dealing with hunger and you’re trying to think about the health consequences of what you’re able to eat, you can see how that would be stressful for a family.”

Elon University runs several programs through a variety of academic and Student Life offices that address hunger both locally and abroad. Steve Moore, a lecturer in the Department of Environmental Studies who teaches agroecology, shared many of these programs before participants broke into small groups for brainstorming additional ideas.

Steve Moore in the Department of Environmental Studies: "The outcome of eliminating hunger in Alamance County would be a really neat goal."

The existing efforts include:

- Campus Kitchen
- Oxfam
- Leaders in Collaborative Service (LINCS)
- Stop Hunger Now
- Powell Community Garden
- Loy Farm
- Elon Academy
- A recently awarded grant to help senior citizens
- Ongoing food drop-off at the library
- Turkey Trot 5K race to collect canned goods in the fall
- A forthcoming Peace Corps partnership with the university to help teach students about sustainable agricultural and development needs

Moore offered other suggestions to examine in the months and years ahead, from mobile farmers markets to considering a new minor at the university in food and hunger studies.

“We are a very small part of the Alamance community,” he said. “It’s important for us to realize the humble part that we play, and hopefully important part, in meeting and helping our fellow citizens and community members. They’re the ones who should really be the main players in directing our activities.

“If we engage with them and share our excitement with the resources we can bring, we can be really useful. The outcome of eliminating hunger in Alamance County would be a really neat goal.”

Elon's Hunger Summit follows in the wake of the Campus Compact Hunger Summit hosted by the university last fall. That forum attracted faculty and students from colleges across North Carolina.

For more information about the Hunger Summit and ideas for moving forward, contact the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement at (336) 278-7250 or elonvols@elon.edu. Moore can be reached at smoore24@elon.edu.

Eric Townsend,
Staff
2/20/2013 11:54 AM