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Walsh Hosts Third Annual Ohio Hunger Dialogue

School News

September 30, 2019

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 hosted the Third Ohio Hunger Dialogue on campus from September 27-29, 2019.

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Walsh welcomed more than 140 participants for the Dialogue, including students from 12 difference colleges such as Columbus State Community College, Kent, Malone, University of Akron, Miami of Ohio and the University of Dayton. In addition, 25 community organizations will have representation at the event including Stark County Hunger Taskforce, Akron Canton Foodbank, StarkFresh, Stark County Health Department and the Hunger Network of Cleveland.

“This was an opportunity for community partners, university students and faculty to gather to collaborate on ideas, efforts, and challenges to address food, hunger, and sustainability in our communities and on our campuses,” said Food Design Institute Director Professor Jennifer Vokoun.

The conference included a Keynote Address by Erin White, Principal and Founder of the Community Food Lab in Raleigh, N.C. who shared how he uses design thinking to address food systems. Erin White is a designer, entrepreneur, and teacher working for healthy food systems. Characteristic of his collaborative nature and his belief that diverse ideas lead to resilient solutions, Erin built this creative practice as a hybrid model in the intersection between design, consulting, and social entrepreneurship to allow free exploration into what it means to design for the human-centered territory of food systems.

The event also included a Canton Area Food Resources Bus Tour, interactive workshops and discussion topics on VISTA and AmeriCorps opportunities. Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank will lead a pantry simulation with participants exploring tools and technology used to address food insecurity, how to use storytelling and narrative for impact in food systems, and the role and impact of campus farms and pantries.

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.

The Ohio Hunger Dialogue was sponsored by Meijer, a privately-owned and family-operated Midwestern retailer that strives to better the lives of people in all our communities, making them better places to live, work and play. Meijer started its Simply Give program in 2008 to stock the shelves of food pantries in the communities it serves. The program has generated more than $50 million since then with the continued generosity of its customers, team members and food pantry partners. 

WALSH UNIVERSITY HUNGER INITIATIVES

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 statewide meeting devoted to seeking hunger solutions. 

The Food Design Institute at Walsh University was established in 2018 to serve as a resource for the development of innovative solutions using human-centered design 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 be 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 in 2019. Walsh students in Professor Vokoun’s Graphic Design courses were responsible for branding the project. Their work will be on display this fall in the Birk Center in an exhibit entitled Project Eat.