University leaders to develop action plan for eliminating hunger, malnutrition worldwide at Washington, D.C., meeting

Published: June 11, 2015
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The first operational meeting of Presidents United to Solve Hunger – a coalition of more than 70 universities worldwide – will be held with multi-sector leaders on June 17 in Washington, D.C.

Joined by Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, the group will devise how the expertise, innovation and student engagement found at universities and colleges can help communities and nations build sustainable food security.

"PUSH fosters universities working together to solve the causes and consequences of hunger," said Auburn University President Jay Gogue. "It's an effective mechanism for education, advocacy and engagement across national borders."

Since PUSH, a Universities Fighting World Hunger initiative, started at Auburn in February 2014, more than 70 universities worldwide have joined, with their presidents signing the Presidents' Commitment to Food and Nutrition Security, a document that outlines a pathway to zero hunger campuses, communities and nations.

The meeting, at the National Press Club, will also be an opportunity for universities to contribute to national and global efforts to combat hunger with many international organizations, such as the World Food Programme (WFP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), as well as a number of non-governmental organizations, including FeelGood, the Alliance to End Hunger and HungerU.

"Ending hunger will not be achieved unless there is a strategy supported by knowledge and research," said IFPRI Director General Shenggen Fan. "Research institutes and universities play a key role in this endeavor."

The program will open with a featured address from Hernandez, who has made the solution of hunger and poverty a cornerstone issue of his administration and is especially concerned with providing new hope to the youth of his country. He sees PUSH as a key partner in achieving these goals and is a strong supporter of the establishment of a Hunger Solutions Institute for Latin America. Two Honduran universities are current PUSH members – Universidad Nacional de Agricultura and Zamorano University.

"The role of universities is to raise up the next generation of leaders that can make their neighborhoods, communities, nations and the world a bit better through their contributions," said Jeffrey Lansdale, Zamorano's president and a member of the PUSH Steering Committee. "PUSH, by uniting universities throughout the world, can greatly accelerate this effort."

Other event speakers include Gogue; Fan; Patrick Webb, the Andrew McFarlane Professor of Nutrition at Tufts University's Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy; Catherine Bertini, World Food Prize laureate, former executive director of WFP and professor at Syracuse University; Roger Thurow, author and senior fellow with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs; Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities; and Alastair Summerlee, president emeritus, University of Guelph.

PUSH member institutions include land-grants, liberal arts, faith-based, historically black, and Hispanic-serving colleges and universities from six continents. In addition to Auburn, the State of Alabama is currently represented by University of Alabama, Troy University and Tuskegee University, which is part of a consortium of universities currently working with faculty at Tufts University on a Nutrition Innovation Lab funded by the United States Agency for International Development.

"Faculty and researchers within Tuskegee's College of Agriculture, Environmental and Nutrition Sciences have long been concerned about the problems of local, regional, national and world hunger and the PUSH initiative is a natural fit for its ongoing work," said Tuskegee President Dr. Brian Johnson.

"Our students have worked, in partnership with others, for many years to combat hunger in our communities," added Alabama President Judy Bonner. "Through PUSH, I'm pleased that our campus, along with these partner institutions, is discussing ways of combating the problems of hunger and malnutrition on a larger scale."

Auburn has been a global leader in the fight against hunger since partnering with the United Nations WFP in 2004. Auburn's War on Hunger campaign and relationship with WFP led to the formation of Universities Fighting World Hunger, which boasts a membership of more than 300 colleges and universities worldwide.

The June 17 meeting will be livestreamed on the National Press Club website at www.visualwebcaster.com/PUSH and on the websites of the International Food Policy Research Institute and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.