Students discuss, plan how to fight food insecurity at K-State

Students engage in conversation about food insecurity, and food insecurity at K-State in the Leadership Studies building on April 5, 2016. (Jessica Robbins | The Collegian)

Leadership studies students, faculty and members of the K-State chapter of the Food Recovery Network gathered Tuesday in the Leadership Studies Building to present information on and address the food insecurity of K-State students in the first of two planned meetings.

Food insecurity is defined as the “economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service’s website.

Students enrolled in the LEAD 405 Leadership in Practice course gathered data, information and personal stories throughout the semester about those affected by food insecurity, which were then compiled and presented at the meeting.

“Everyone is connected to food in some way, and food has an impact on many aspects of our lives,” Christine Rock, sophomore in food science and industry and political science, said. “As students, our performance can be affected if we don’t get the nutrients we need.”

Rock and Tom Anjard, sophomore in industrial engineering, are both members of the K-State chapter of the Food Recovery Network. This network is “the largest student movement against food waste and hunger in America,” according to its website.

Anjard said the meeting was just one of the beginning steps to addressing food insecurity at K-State.

“We want to open a dialogue and figure out what the next steps are,” Anjard said. “What do we do with this data? How do we move forward?”

Following the presentation, the group discussed how to begin addressing food insecurity. The group plans to pitch and discuss solutions in a more in-depth manner in a followup meeting on Thursday.

Theo Stavropoulos, communications coordinator for the Staley School of Leadership Studies, spoke about the importance of long-term, continued engagement.

“We’re looking to establish a universitywide network for solving hunger issues, to build an infrastructure for raising awareness and student engagement,” Stavropoulos said.

Lori Kniffin, adviser of academic programs for the Staley School of Leadership Studies and instructor of the LEAD 405 course, said a hurdle the group faces is finances.

“Sustainable funding, staff and even space on campus are all issues to consider when thinking of solutions,” Kniffin said.

Rock said another challenge is finding solutions that will reach a greater variety of people.

“Hunger is a diverse and multi-faceted issue,” Rock said. “It would be hard to have just one solution. We need to have multiple, flexible solutions.”

Anjard said food insecurity is an “issue that needs to be tackled from all sides.”

Kniffin said the biggest obstacle is unawareness.

“Getting people to engage with the issue and finding a way to facilitate discussion is a challenge,” Kniffin said. “If people don’t know or care about the issue, they won’t be a drive to fix it.”

Kniffin said she hopes passionate students will tap into their own networks, such as social media, greek life and student organizations to spread awareness and enact change.

“We had a lot of productive conversation today,” Anjard said. “But there needs to be a call to action, to mark food insecurity as a real issue here on campus. We need students who can push the issue to their peers and to the administration, so we can have real progress.”