This weekend, March 2-4, is the 8th Annual Universities Fighting World Hunger (UFHW) Summit in Overland Park, Kansas, this weekend, March 2-4, 2013.


 The History of UFWH

Dr. June Henton, Dean of the College of Sciences at Auburn University, founded UFWH in 2004. Dr. Henton and Dr. Harriet Giles were approached by the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) -the largest food-aid agency in the world- to begin an initiative to draw universities together in the fight against hunger.

This summit is unique because it is the first time a statewide coalition of universities, colleges, and community colleges have collaborated to host the Summit. Last year, the Summit was in Honduras at the Universidad National Agricultura in Catacamas, Honduras.

Caleb McNary, Honduran President Sosa, Rick McNary

Caleb McNary, Honduran President Sosa, Rick McNary


How I Got Involved

I had the good fortune to spend some time with June and two other key players in the formation of UFWH.  Dr. Harriet Giles is an excellent orator on the topic of hunger and has provided key support for the development of UFWH.

Rick McNary and Dr. June Henton

Rick McNary and Dr. June Henton

WFP sent one of their senior field advisors, Professor Douglass Cassion Coutts to Auburn to start a hunger minor- the first one of it’s kind to integrate multi-curricular approaches to hunger.

With the three of them together, I peppered them with a variety of novice questions about hunger. I felt like a little kid that keeps raising his hand up asking one annoying question after another. However, they were patient and gracious.

Furthermore, they were stuck with me and I wouldn’t quit asking questions. Little did they know how much they were shaping the ideology of my fight against world hunger. I was with experts in the hunger space and their input formulated much of my philosophy.  I often quote June who said, “I’d rather start a movement than an organization.”  The Summit is a movement.



The Kansas Hunger Dialogue

In 2010, I flew to Auburn to discuss with June and Harriet what I could do on Kansas’s campuses around the issue of hunger. Out of that conversation came the idea for the Kansas Hunger Dialogue. We would gather the top administrators, faculty, and students of Kansas’ post-secondary institutions of higher learning to engage in, “A conversation that matters.”

I didn’t know where to begin, but June told me,  “Go to the top as soon as you can.” She knew the new provost at K-State University, Dr. April Mason, and suggested I visit her.  I ran the idea by Dr. Mason and told her my staff would do the work, but we needed her endorsement. She quickly agreed. Had she not agreed, the Kansas Hunger Dialogue would have died on the vine.

Next I visited with Dr. Jackie Vietti, President of  Butler County Community College. Jackie has done a magnificent job with community colleges and she quickly agreed to give her support for “a conversation that matters.”

Then, Dr. Debora Ballard-Reisch of Wichita State University arranged a meeting with Dr. Don Beggs, President of WSU.  Those three university leaders arranged a meeting with the Kansas Board of Regents and we quickly got the KBOR endorsement.

To complete the circle, I met with Dr. Doug Penner, of the Kansas Independent Colleges Association and he quickly agreed to give support.

Our first KHD was a smashing success!  20 colleges sent a total of 84 people from top-level administration, faculty, and students to the Dialogue, for, as Dr. Vietti called it, “A conversation that matters.” The 2nd Annual KHD was hosted by the Kansas Campus Compact and was even more successful with nearly 150 people attending. North Carolina replicated this model with North Carolina Campuses Against Hunger.

Keynote speakers for this year’s Summit include:

  • Roger Thurow, author of Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty and The Last Hunger Season
  • Max Finberg- Director of USDA Center for Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships
  • Ritu Sharma- Ritu Sharma co-founded Women Thrive Worldwide with Elise Fiber Smith. Under Ritu’s leadership, Women Thrive Worldwide has put the concerns of the poorest women and girls at the center of all U.S. international assistance.

I’ve had the pleasure of serving on the Planning Committee for this Summit. June started a movement of which I’m proud to be a part.