In recent years, Walsh University has proactively addressed issues of hunger and food insecurity locally and around the world. As a part of this ongoing initiative, Walsh University’s Food Design Institute will host the Third Ohio Hunger Dialogue on campus from September 27-29, 2019.
The conference will focus on insights and collaborations on best practices and solutions around the systemic issues of hunger and food insecurity in Ohio communities. In 2014, Walsh University helped to spearhead the first ever Ohio Hunger Dialogue which included a Keynote address by U.S. Ambassador and Alliance to End Hunger Executive Director Emeritus Tony P. Hall. Supported by Universities Fighting World Hunger, and based on the models of dialogues already held in Kansas and North Carolina, Ohio was only the third state to host a state-wide meeting devoted to seeking hunger solutions.
According to FeedingAmerica, Ohio’s hunger problems rank as one of the worst with one of the most alarming rates in the country of nearly one in five children facing hunger. The Ohio Association of Foodbanks estimates that more than 1.75 million Ohioans are “food insecure” and do not know from where their next meal will come.
“This will be an opportunity for community partners and university campuses to gather to collaborate on ideas, efforts, and challenges to address food, hunger, and sustainability,” said Food Design Institute Director Professor Jennifer Vokoun. “The Global Scholars class of 2020 have a goal to have student or faculty representation from every college in the state of Ohio at the Dialogues.”
The Food Design Institute at Walsh University was established in 2018 to serve as a resource for the development of innovative solutions to address food sustainability and hunger in the local community and around the world. In the past year, the Food Design Institute has led the Massillon Meals Community Conversations, which is a series of discussions on how to make Massillon a Hunger Free community. This is part of the national initiative from the Alliance to End Hunger, and is supported by the Stark Community Foundation.
For the past couple of years, the Food Design Institute has also been actively involved in facilitating the development of the Stark County Food Council. Walsh has hosted the Stark County Food Council formation meetings. In addition, the Food Design Institute is part of the collaboration “Project Eat Celebrating a Year of Food in Stark County.” This collaboration is a branding campaign with area organizations including the McKinley Museum, the Massillon Museum and StarkFresh. Project Eat highlights the wide range of activities and food events in Stark County. Walsh students in Professor Vokoun’s Graphic Design III service learning course were responsible for branding the project. Their work will be on display this fall in the Birk Center.
In addition, the Blouin Global Scholars class of 2020 have been studying and engaged with issues related to food, hunger, and sustainability since they arrived on campus as freshman. As their faculty leader, Professor Vokoun and the students have actively been involved in a variety of food systems issues utilizing design thinking and human-centered design. Most recently, the cohort and the Food Design Institute has been working to establish a campus farm to have fresh vegetables available to all students. Since 2016, the Global Scholars have managed plots at the campus community garden. This summer, with support from a grant from Universities Fighting World Hunger, the ground was tilled on a larger piece of land to start the Campus Farm, and fall vegetables were planted. The goal will be to produce vegetables that can be distributed for free at various campus events on a mobile market cart. This project will support all those in the campus community and their families who would benefit from fresh vegetables, for health, well-being, or food access issues.