In 2010, I was at Auburn University visiting with Dr. June Henton, founder of Universities Fighting World Hunger, and Dr. Harriet Giles. I was there to explore the idea of hosting a conference in Kansas around the theme of hunger. Because of facilitation training I had received from the Kansas Health Foundation and some great advice from my Dad that a “wise person doesn’t have all the answers but knows whom to ask,” I wanted to gather wise folks to talk about the issue of hunger and begin working together.
The day before I arrived, June was in a conversation with the World Food Progamme in Rome (they helped June and Harriet start UFWH) about the idea of a state-wide coalition of colleges and universities building a model for collaboration on hunger. As the three of us brainstormed over a cup of coffee in June’s office, the idea of the Kansas Hunger Dialogue was given birth.
June suggested I ask some folks in Kansas, so I visited with Dr. April Mason- Provost at KSU; Dr. Jackie Vietti- Pres. of Butler Community College; Dr. Don Beggs- President of WSU; and Dr. Doug Penner- President of Kansas Independent Colleges. Within a few weeks of the origin of the idea, we had the endorsement of Dr. Andy Tompkins and the Kansas Board of Regents as well as the Kansas Independent Colleges. The Kansas Hunger Dialogue had begun. We were going to have, as Dr. Vietti said, “A conversation that mattered.”
What many might not know is that about 3 weeks before our first Kansas Hunger Dialogue, I was ready to throw in the towel. Our staff had worked so hard on putting it together, but no one had registered for the conference and, as they say, I was freaking out. When I mentioned my fear to the staff, I was quickly rebuffed and encouraged to keep the faith. I am so glad I did.
Our first Kansas Hunger Dialogue was a smashing success. 20 schools were represented by the 83 people who attended. We had excellent speakers and great interaction. I encouraged all who were in attendance that if they wanted to continue the Dialogue for the next year, it would need to be theirs to own- we were interested in starting a movement, not an organization.
And own it, they did. Matt Lindsey, Ex. Dir. of Kansas Campus Compact, along with the support of others, hosted the 2nd Annual Kansas Hunger Dialogue and it was even more successful! 21 schools were represented by over 140 people who attended. And, from that Dialogue came the decision to host the Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit in Kansas of 2013.
Our desire, from the beginning, was to build a replicable model. I am so happy to inform you that our dear friends in North Carolina have used our model, fashioned it to meet their needs, and are meeting today and tomorrow at Elon University for North Carolina Campuses Against Hunger. 21 schools and 140 people are registered. Rod Brooks, CEO of Stop Hunger Now, was a keynote speaker at the last Kansas Hunger Dialogue and was so impressed that he took the idea back to the founder of SHN, Dr. Ray Buchannan, and their board and staff began planning. They partnered with the North Carolina Campus Compact, Elon University, and NC State University’s Center for Student Leadership, Ethics, and Public Service. You can follow the Twitter hashtag for the event: #NCvsHunge
And, from what I heard, Ohio and Maine are seriously talking about hosting their own version of the Kansas Hunger Dialogue.
Hunger really is a solvable problem, but it’s going to take the most brilliant minds we have who are sitting in classrooms all over the world to engage in conversations that matter. Out of these dialogues are coming actionable plans that will have lasting impact on defeating the awful enemy of hunger.
Would you like to be a part of a Hunger Dialogue? Would you like help bringing one to your state? We’re ready to roll!