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MC a founding member of food security initiative

Barry McNamara
12/19/2014
Monmouth College president Clarence Wyatt (fourth from left in front row) is pictured with other college presidents and senior administrators at the United Nations, where he signed a pact earlier this month to launch Presidents United to Solve Hunger (PUSH), an academic coalition to fight hunger and malnutrition.
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Monmouth College, a leader in the food security movement, is a founding member of a new coalition of more than 60 colleges and universities worldwide to found Presidents United to Solve Hunger (PUSH), an academic coalition to fight hunger and malnutrition.
 
Monmouth’s Clarence Wyatt joined 25 other college presidents and senior administrators at the United Nations this month to sign a pact that will serve as a blueprint for higher education’s role in addressing food security issues.
 
“The intellectual expertise of institutions of higher education is greatly needed to solve the problem of food insecurity,” said Amina Mohammed, special adviser to the UN Secretary-General. “The partnership is critical.”
 
“Thank you again for your foresight and leadership in being the pioneers in this collective action of the academy to end hunger and malnutrition,” wrote June Henton, executive director of Auburn University’s Hunger Solutions Institute, in a letter to Wyatt.
 
“There is no more basic human need than food, and no more basic human impulse than to help ease hunger – whether it be in our home town or across the globe,” said Wyatt.
 
The Presidents’ Commitment to Food and Nutrition Security grew out of a forum earlier this year organized by the Hunger Solutions Institute, in partnership with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Titled “Shaping the Collective Role of Universities as a Partner in Ending Hunger,” the forum drew 70 leaders from 30 universities in the U.S., Canada and Latin America.
 
One of the coalition’s first tasks will be to inventory food security activities in areas where hunger is currently being addressed at academic institutions: teaching, research, outreach and student engagement.
 
Monmouth is ahead of the game in that respect, thanks to its food security initiative, announced earlier this year as part of the college’s innovative “Triads for Excellence” program. In addition to using several existing faculty members, a team of three additional faculty members from different disciplines is being recruited to teach and conduct academic research related to food production, distribution and ethical issues.
 
“Monmouth recognized some time ago that issues related to food and food security touch every aspect of our lives, making them excellent teaching and learning opportunities,” said Wyatt, “This is another clear demonstration of how the Monmouth College experience brings a variety of disciplines and perspectives together on issues of importance – of the power of the liberal arts to create a better world.”
 
Composed of faculty members from sociology/anthropology, biology and economics, the new team already has an anthropologist, Amber O’Connor, on campus, and a biologist, Eric Engstrom, has been hired for next fall. The college is reviewing more than 50 applications from its nationwide search for the economics position.
 
A faculty steering committee has laid the groundwork for a student/faculty trip to Cameroon in 2015, as well as a later trip to South America. This fall, approximately 300 students were enrolled in eight courses that are part of the initiative, and another eight courses will be taught this spring.
 
“It is exciting to see our food security initiative continue to develop, bringing a group of faculty, staff, and students together to help guide our involvement with PUSH,” said Dean David Timmerman. “There is excitement on campus and there continues to be excitement from our off-campus partners.”
       
Although courses will be offered across campus, the focal point for food security study and research will be Monmouth’s new $40 million Center for Science and Business, which offers state-of-the-art classrooms and labs designed to facilitate interdisciplinary study. One particular laboratory is dedicated to the study of nutrition and food chemistry. Other college facilities that will be central to the initiative include an educational garden, as well as a six-acre research farm.
 
Two more of Monmouth’s innovative programs – the senior capstone citizenship projects that are part of the college’s four-year Integrated Studies curriculum and Summer Opportunities for Intellectual Activity (SOFIA) – have also focused on food-related issues. Three student groups tackled those issues during SOFIA, and students in the course “Land, Food and Sustainable Agriculture” made two farm-to-table proposals. One proposal would add nutrition to the local backpack program, and the other would provide more options for the college’s food service company, Aramark.
 
Another proposal involving composting is already under way, explained the course’s instructor, professor Craig Watson.
 
“The one on composting is now an ongoing collaborative proposal with City of Monmouth sustainability coordinator Chad Braatz for an enhanced community composting system and compost screen to sift compost,” he reported.
 
Through student life organizations and the co-curriculum, the college has had a longstanding commitment to food security issues, noted dean of students Jacquelyn Condon.
 
“Athletic teams, fraternities and sororities, and a variety of other organizations are committed to initiatives that collect for and help stock the local food pantry,” she said. “Additionally, Alternative Spring Break (ASB) experiences to urban and rural areas have for years provided our students with firsthand knowledge of food security issues.”
 
ASB trips have been taken to such places as an Indian reservation and the Appalachian Mountains, as well as a poverty immersion experience in Louisville, Ky.