The Pandemic & Food Insecurity: Hunger Solutions Rises to the Challenge

As the coronavirus pandemic began its relentless march around the world, a global hunger crisis swiftly erupted in its wake.  And with it, the second Sustainable Development Goal – Zero Hunger – has become more imperiled.

Instead of diminishing, the number of the world’s hungry has risen dramatically during the pandemic.  The global economic slowdown, the mounting job losses, the shattered food supply chains, and the shuttered schools have the United Nations’ World Food Program warning that an additional 260 million people globally are at risk of severe hunger, and that malnourished children could die at the rate of 10,000 a month.  In the United States, we have seen the desperate surge at food banks and food pantries, the traffic jams at drive-through bread lines, and the scramble to nourish children no longer receiving breakfast and lunch programs once the schools closed.

All of this has made the work of Auburn’s Hunger Solutions Institute (HSI) more important and urgent than ever.  The HSI, in the College of Human Sciences, forges collective action at the campus, community, state and global levels to share knowledge and best practices in the fight to end hunger.  In these efforts to create multi-sector coalitions, HSI is a key ally in successfully achieving SDG2.

With more than one in five children in Alabama experiencing food insecurity – living in households struggling to access or afford sufficient nutritional food for adequate daily sustenance – the HSI leads an End Child Hunger in Alabama initiative supported by a task force of more than 30 key state leaders and activists from government, nonprofit and faith-based communities, education groups, and the private sector, headed by the governor.  The HSI also provides leadership for Universities Fighting World Hunger, a grassroots student movement of more than 300 university affiliates around the world aiming to raise awareness of hunger wherever it may be and inspire the next generation of activists.  HSI is also the coordinator of Presidents United to Solve Hunger (PUSH), a consortium of more than 100 higher education institutions committed to ending hunger and malnutrition, including promoting academic research and curriculum, like Auburn’s Hunger Studies minor.

The Hunger Solutions Institute is also pioneering research into campus hunger.  It leads the Alabama Campus Coalition for Basic Needs, a gathering of 10 universities in the state, and is developing a campus food aid self-assessment tool so schools can better measure and implement programs to meet the needs of their food-insecure students.  In recent months, responding to the hunger triggered by the pandemic, HSI researchers hurried to compile a comprehensive food resource guide, mapping government and charitable assistance – food banks, pantries, school feeding sites, senior meals programs, stores accepting SNAP food stamps and Women and Infant Children supplemental nutrition coupons – available throughout Alabama, county by county.

At the core of HSI’s work are the beliefs that hunger is a solvable problem, particularly when the knowledge and passion from all academic disciplines are combined, and that every individual has something to contribute to conquering hunger, no matter your academic major, skill set, or career path.  This isn’t just a task for the agriculture, nutrition, medical and health disciplines, but also for business, engineering, architecture, education, liberal arts, law, the sciences, sociology, communications, computer technology, math, fashion, design, religion, ethics — anything you may be studying.  Yes, even journalism.

After 30 years as a reporter and foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and a decade writing books about how hunger and malnutrition abide in the 21st century, I arrived at Auburn this semester to raise the clamor with the Hunger Solutions Institute.  That’s what I can do as a journalist – spread the word, outrage and, I hope, inspire.

My personal moment of great disruption came in May 2003 in Ethiopia, during the first great hunger crisis of our new millennium.  More than 14 million people were on the doorstep of starvation.  On my first day in the capital of Addis Ababa, I was surveying the scope of the famine with the World Food Program.  One of the WFP officials offered me a piece of advice: “Looking into the eyes of someone dying of hunger becomes a disease of the soul,” he told me.  “You see that nobody should have to die of hunger.”

The next day, we were in an emergency feeding camp; we parted the flaps of one of the large relief tents and stepped inside to a scene of utter horror.  Dozens of children were starving to death in the arms of their parents.  Speechless, I wandered to the back of the tent and spoke with a father cradling his young son.

“What have I done to my child?,” asked the father, a poor smallholder farmer whose crops had failed in the drought.  It was a profound question, but a more troubling one needed to be raised: What had we done to his child, allowing such medieval suffering when the world as a whole was producing more food than ever before?

What I saw, and heard, did indeed become a disease of my soul.  In the normal routine of a foreign correspondent, I would have written the story and moved on to the next place, the next adventure.  But this was the one story that stopped me cold: hunger in the 21st century.  It became the sole focus of my journalism, eventually leading me away from The Wall Street Journal to writing books and using whatever platform was available to raise the clamor.

And now my diseased soul has brought me to Auburn, to the Hunger Solutions Institute, to join the next generation of activists leading the way, finally, to Zero Hunger.

Post contributed by Roger Thurow, Scholar-in-Residence at the Hunger Solutions Institute, College of Human Sciences. He is also a Senior Fellow of the Global Food and Agriculture Program at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

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Campus Changemaker: Marley Halter’s Journey with Community Gardening

Located on West Samford Avenue, The Auburn University Community Garden is a touchstone for sustainable eating practices in the Auburn-Opelika area. Operated by Tiger Dining, they purpose their land for multiple uses. The Garden hosts faculty, students, and community members alike who want to participate in growing their own food. Some plots are also used to grow crops that are sold to local restaurants. Alongside these efforts, the garden devotes 20 of their plots (which totals roughly 12,000 square feet) to grow food that they donate to either Campus Kitchens—an on-campus organization working towards alleviating food insecurity in our area—or to the East Alabama Food Bank.

Marley Halter posing with produce at the community garden.
Marley Halter, Manager of Auburn’s Community Garden

Though the garden does an exceptional job of providing the means to eat healthily and locally, their focus is on educating people about gardening practices. “We are also an outdoor classroom,” said Marley Halter, manager of the garden. “My goal is to make the garden a classroom, so that students are coming out to the garden to use it as a teaching space.” Halter elaborates that the primary purpose of the Community Garden is education. The garden facilitates education through encouraging classes to visit, but they also host several educational events that provide people with resources to garden as well as information about the importance of local gardening efforts.

Marley has a dynamic position as the manager of the garden. Working under the umbrella of Tiger Dining gives her a unique opportunity to engage with students. Oftentimes, she uses her expertise from the garden as a way into critical discussions about sustainable living. She hopes to broaden her managerial position to allow her to be the liaison for sustainability within Tiger Dining. This includes a potential collaboration with the Nutritional Resource Center that will soon be added to campus.

Eating locally is an issue close to Marley’s heart, which informs her work at the community garden. When speaking on the issue, she remarked “If we are going to seriously do something about climate change, we are going to have to focus more on local food.” According to Halter, eating locally comes with a wealth of benefits: your food tends to be more nutritional, you can reduce your carbon footprint, it helps to boost local economies, and it strengthens social ties. Halter emphasizes, however, that you do not have to get all your food locally to make a difference. “If you can get most of your food or the majority of your food locally then you are already making a huge difference and having a huge impact on your community and on the world.”

A group of people working and smiling in Auburn's community garden.
A group working in Auburn’s community garden, taken by Marley Halter

Given her experience in the world of gardening and sustainability, it is no surprise that she brings so much enthusiasm and vision to her position. Marley has been gardening since she was in college. In her undergraduate years, she had an internship at an organic farm in rural Arkansas. This experience was what made her fall in love with gardening. By working closely with the woman who owned this farm, she gained an intimate knowledge of all that goes into running a small-scale organic farm. Whether it was balancing finances, securing relationships with local farmer’s markets and grocers, or simply getting her hands dirty, Marley soaked in every experience. She remarks how empowering it was to work at a woman-owned farm. Women in agriculture are very underrepresented, so watching a female farmer own and operate a highly successful farm made a huge impact on her career.

When she relocated to Phoenix, Arizona, Marley was met with a starkly different environment. An urban center in a much different climate than Arkansas, Phoenix offered her new insights into gardening and sustainability. She got involved with a local community garden, first volunteering, but she quickly became invested and ended up taking on many managerial roles. What stood out to her most about this experience was the cultural and social impact on community gardening. When asked about her time in Phoenix, Halter said “I realized that you don’t have to be a farmer necessarily…to do this, to impact your local community. You can start it with a group of friends, you can start it with your neighbors, and you can still grow a lot of food. You can grow a lot of culturally, socially, nutritionally meaningful food.”

Community Garden Manager Marley Halter takes a smiling selfie with some corn.
Community Garden Manager Marley Halter takes a smiling selfie with some corn.

These lessons inform her work here at Auburn, especially as she continues to learn what it means to form a community around gardening. She defines sustainability not only as the effort to conserve the earth’s resources but also an effort to build equitable, viable communities. She is most interested, now, in the social and cultural importance of food, particularly in how these attachments to food can bring humans together.

One of these moments happened quite recently. Marley recalls a day when she was harvesting in the garden and a student worker noticed large, grey fungal growths on some of the corn. The student recognized the fungus, also called corn smut, and she explained that in Mexico, the smut is called huitlacoche and is often used in Mexican cooking. The student was excited because her roommate—who is Mexican—used to eat the food often, so she brought the corn smut back to her apartment. Her roommate called her father and he gave them a recipe, excited that she was able to find huitlacoche, which is seldom sold in the United States. Apparently, her family had been cooking with huitlacoche for generations. All the roommates prepared dinner together and learned how to cook with the corn smut. That evening, they were able to find human connection around the cultural significance of an ingredient that, in America, would likely be thrown away. “To me, that was it. I had this moment as she told me that story where I said, ‘This is what a community garden is supposed to be.’ Facilitating those kinds of experiences is on my radar.”


To get involved with the community garden, visit the Community Garden website to find out about their Monthly Community Days, and to follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

Post Contributed by Chloe McMahon, Office of Sustainability Program Coordinator.

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Community Gardens: An Important Tool for Eliminating Food Insecurity

If you’re one of the 19 million people in the United States who lives in a food desert, getting access to fresh, healthy food, particularly fresh produce, can be extremely difficult. Food deserts are defined as places where predominantly low-income people live at least 1 mile from a grocery store (or at least 10 miles for those in rural areas). Farmers’ markets are often not a viable solution due to distance, cost, limited hours of operation, and limited selection of goods. So, what are food insecure people to do if they want affordable, accessible, and nutritional food? Why, start a garden, of course! Even better, start or join a community garden!

Auburn's Community Garden logo.
Auburn’s Community Garden logo.

What are community gardens?
Community gardens are simply places where a group of people collectively grow food. They can be privately owned (like by a neighborhood association or a church) or public (such as gardens at schools or community centers). They can be located rurally or in a dense urban areas, and members can be all ages. Regardless of where they are and who makes them up, community gardens represent a great opportunity for people of all socio-economic backgrounds to grow nutritious food, improve their mental and physical health, improve their communities, and connect with their neighbors.



Physical health benefits of gardening:

A group of friends posing with their gardening tools before getting back to work in the garden.
A group of friends pose with their gardening tools before getting back to work in the garden.
  • Improved nutrition
  • Increase in physical activity
  • Decrease in obesity

Mental health benefits of gardening:

  • Increase in your sense of community
  • Decrease in anxiety and depression
  • Decrease in overall stress (Who doesn’t need a little less stress in their life, especially in 2020?)

Why eat locally?
Food in the United States travels about 1,500 miles from farm to plate. It takes days and sometimes weeks to get to you from where it was grown, and most produce loses 30 percent of nutrients in the first 3 days after harvest. Not to mention the alteration in taste and texture. And the exorbitant use of fossil fuels to ship, fly, or truck your food to the grocery store. Growing your own food, buying from local farmers, and eating seasonally are all ways you can increase your food’s nutrients and decrease your carbon footprint.

A group of friends pose with their pumpkins in a line.
Friends harvest pumpkins and watermelon grown in the garden.

What is Auburn University doing?
Many food insecure people also attend college campuses, making this a critical issue for universities. Amazingly, Auburn University has been invested in community and student health through our campus community garden for more than 50 years! Did you know you can rent a plot or volunteer at our garden any time? Whether it’s just your excuse to get out of the house for a couple of hours, or a reason to get a group of friends together during the pandemic, you can get your hands in the dirt and help grow food for your community any time at the community garden. So far in 2020, with the help of our volunteers and donors, we have grown and donated over 1,000 lbs of produce! Or do you want to learn how to start your own garden at home? Whether you have a yard, a balcony, or just a sunny windowsill, the Community Garden at AU has classes, workshops, and online resources to help you get growing.
Even just being in a campus green space has been shown to improve college students’ quality of life, so come visit the garden soon. We can’t wait to see you there!

Visit the community garden website or email garden manager Marley to learn more!

Sources and further reading:

Campus Green Spaces Enhance Quality Of Life. Retrieved from ScienceDaily
Research Regarding the Benefits of Community Gardens. Retrieved from NC State Extension
Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture. (n.d.). How Far Does Your Food Travel to Get to Your Plate?
Most produce loses 30 percent of nutrients three days after harvest. Retrieved from Chicago Tribune
Impact of Gardening on Mental Health. Retrieved from Healthy Minds Philly
Food Access Reserach Atlas. Retrieved from USDA Economic Research Service 

Post contributed by Marley Halter, Manager of the Community Garden at Auburn University.

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Introducing Home on the Plains, A One-Stop Center for Health & Wellness Support

In these unique times, staying safe means observing a number of safety and social distancing protocols. Times like these highlight our individual needs for connectivity and support. Maybe the support we need is a few non-perishable food items, a recipe for dining on a budget, a break away from today’s stresses through a documentary screening, or even a conversation with a new, friendly face. Whatever the need may be, this series will highlight multiple groups on campus who provide a variety of resources to students. Whether you are a new or returning Auburn student, this spot on the Office of Sustainability’s blogpost will introduce you to many incredible programs over the course of the semester. Initially, we will start with a program that describes both prior and current initiatives to address food insecurity awareness nationally.

The Universities Fighting World Hunger – Flagship Chapter (UFWH) is a student-led organization that arose from Auburn’s initial War on Hunger, originally established in collaboration with the United Nations World Food Programme in 2004. UFWH is committed to connecting both individuals and departments on Auburn’s campus in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. The program takes an aerial view at the impact each segment of life can have in tackling both domestic and international concerns surrounding malnutrition and hunger.

Colorful logo of a fork, plate, and knife with the words "Universities Fighting World Hunger Auburn"
The Universities Fighting World Hunger logo.

Through a multidisciplinary stance, UFWH aims to incorporate all major departments and organizations on campus to work toward recognition of and action to prevent hunger. In doing so, the organization facilitates multiple fundraising and community service projects tailored to share valuable information that inspires each of us towards action. UFWH plays a vital role in broadcasting information about the need for food security-related initiatives on a college campus and encourages other students/faculty/staff to get involved. If you are looking to get involved with UFWH, head over to their AUInvolve page for more information!

Looking at the Universities Fighting World Hunger alone, we can already commend the efforts made annually to fight hunger. And this is just one program at Auburn that focuses on the health and wellbeing of the Auburn family as well as persons in the surrounding community. Highlighting these incredible organizations for their essential work is one thing, but this series will continue to share the pivotal work each group is doing on campus.

In Fall 2021, Auburn’s central campus will introduce Home on the Plains, where you can come and see each group in action! In collaboration with Tiger Dining, we are working to develop a space in Lupton Hall, where students, faculty, and staff can learn more about each group mentioned throughout this blog series. Whether a group will be running day to day operations distributing food to the community, aiding in the spread of information relating to food insecurity, providing cooking demonstrations for dorm-centered eating, or even communicating about an individual’s overall health and wellness, this is the space where you can find the resources you need. Make sure to stay tuned to learn more about programs that work to improve Auburn’s campus environment, as well as updates about Home on the Plains!


Post contributed by Alayna Priebe, Project Coordinator with Tiger Dining, V.P. of Communications with The Campus Kitchen at Auburn University.

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An Active Player in the Fight against Food Insecurity: The Campus Kitchen at Auburn University: An Account from a Cherished Community Partner & General Operation Update

The logo for Campus Kitchens at Auburn University, with Samford Hall in Auburn as the background and a black and white image of a fork, knife, and spoon in the foreground.
The logo for Campus Kitchens at Auburn University.

In our current situation, food resources can be a necessity now more than ever. No one may know what may be going on in an individual’s life, but we can definitely work to provide as many resources as possible in case someone is in need. There are multiple resources on Auburn’s campus that address hunger-related topics, and The Campus Kitchen is a large player in overall hunger awareness. The Campus Kitchen at Auburn University (CKAU) is a student-led organization that functions to both mitigate food waste on campus as well as work in the larger fight against hunger in the surrounding Auburn-Opelika community. In collaboration with Campus Dining, volunteers are able to collect unserved foods from some of the dining halls and restaurants located on campus for packaging into individual nutritious meals. The Campus Kitchen partners with community organizations such as Esperanza House, Macon County Food Pantry, the Alabama Council for Human Resources, as well as Auburn Family Meals (to name a few) to distribute these meals to individuals in the surrounding community facing food insecurity. CKAU is currently functioning in Toomer Hall, located in the Hill, but will be moving to a more central location to enhance accessibility for our partners.

One of the Backpack International meals, with roast chicken, rice, and mixed steamed vegetables like carrots, peppers, squash, and onion.
A delivery meal packaged for Backpack International.

Though we are able to reduce the amount of food waste on campus, we would not be able to function fully without the amazing partnerships that we have with Auburn community members. Partnering with these organizations allows us to make a connection within the Auburn community by seeing first-hand how a few hours of service impact others. One particular partner that we are blessed to work with is Backpack International (BI). Starting in 2016, BI is focused on bringing about a spiritual connection through service. One of the main functions of the organization is to create backpacks full of school supplies and items for dissemination to children in Guyana during an annual “Christmas In July” Vacation Bible School Project. Not only does Oslyn Rodriguez, Backpack International’s founder and executive director, work tirelessly to ensure BI is able to provide children in Guyana with school materials, she also works to provide meals to her local community members.

Oslyn states, “Our involvement with The Campus Kitchen at Auburn University has had a positive impact on our organization. Our partnership has enabled us to expand our services beyond providing backpacks and supplies to children in need. Our involvement with Campus Kitchen helps us fulfill a need for the entire family, not just the children who receive the backpacks. Most often, children whose parents/caregivers are struggling to provide school supplies, hygiene products, and other essentials are also battling food insecurity. This partnership also helps us provide meals for our often forgotten elderly population, many of whom are shut-in. And finally, our relationship with Campus Kitchen enables us to provide volunteer opportunities for retirees and volunteers who are looking for ways to serve in their local community. I am so thankful for Campus Kitchen of Auburn University.” We are beyond grateful to be able to work alongside partners, like Backpack International, who care so deeply about their fellow community members.

Despite the unprecedented times we are currently living in, we are still functioning to reduce food waste and serve as a delivery partner to the Auburn-Opelika area. Our volunteer operations look a little different from the past, but we are running nonetheless. We are currently operating shifts with a reduced number of volunteers, having a maximum of 2 people for pickup, delivery, and cleaning shifts as well as a maximum of 6 individuals present for packaging shifts. We feel that these reduced numbers can help to maintain social distancing measures. If you are familiar with our packaging space, we will spread out packaging operations across two tables and into the main room to maintain social distancing measures. Along with this, we will be requiring masks throughout the entirety of all shifts, as well as a clearance for volunteers through GuideSafe’s HealthCheck passport. We do ask that each individual take point on their health and wellness, so we are able to remain cautious of the health of all involved. We hope that through these safety measures, you will still be able to get some hands-on volunteer time with CKAU. If that’s not at your comfort level, we are also working on developing a virtual option for completing volunteer hours. Please don’t hesitate to send an email over to for any additional questions!

All said, we would absolutely love to meet some new volunteers ready to get hands-on service working towards a food secure community. If you are interested, we do send updated information about CKAU and shifts available for volunteering each week through AUInvolve. We look forward to seeing you and as always, Fork Hunger! Be on the lookout for another piece detailing a community partner we are lucky to work with shortly!


Post contributed by Alayna Priebe, Project Coordinator with Tiger Dining, V.P. of Communications with The Campus Kitchen at Auburn University.

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Food Insecurity Among College Students & the Need for Sustainable Transformation

Food insecurity amongst college students is an ever present reality on college campuses.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), food insecurity is defined as the “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.”

With student demographics constantly changing, college tuition continuing to rise, and many students relying heavily on financial needs to obtain their degree, it can be said that colleges students are a particularly vulnerable population. A 2018 survey conducted by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab found that 36% of college students are considered “food insecure,” mainly students were not adequately eating.

With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen limited research regarding the real-time effects this has had on students’ ability to secure basic necessities. The rates of food insecurity has increased dramatically since the pandemic with the continued decline of the economy. Thus, begs the question, “What are colleges and universities doing to ensure food insecurity does not become a major issue?”

Colleges and universities have taken huge strides in the development and implementation of sustainability plans and programs. However, a recent analysis of campus sustainability plans found that many only typically address discrete functional areas such as energy use, transportation, housing and food (White, 2014). As these plans address both environmental and economic aspects for improving sustainability, they tend to omit the real social understanding of these topics, such as the effects of college student food insecurity. This raises a major concern about our campus sustainability efforts.

So, you must be asking yourself, “how can colleges and universities deliberately address the issue of food insecurity?”

In recent years, higher education policy and student health scholars have been paying close attention to food insecurity. Results from these studies have varied greatly among those who have attempted to measure the prevalence of student food insecurity among students in US colleges and universities (White, 2020). Several of the studies have found that 15% to 59% of students experience some degree of food insecurity (White, 2020). Given the efforts to support sustainability as well to create more equitable communities, we can see how these findings may bring about some caution. According to White (2020), Food insecurity among college students is incompatible with a holistic perspective of sustainability that includes socially equitable outcomes. A necessary first step is to understand food sustainability characteristics.

This is a challenge; however, many campuses have developed goals and objects within their sustainability plans to provide students with a concrete understanding of campus food options.

Auburn Foods Logo
Look for the Auburn Foods logo at locations around campus.

Here at Auburn University, the Office of Sustainability has taken an active role in helping students understand the importance of their food options. Tiger Dining leads Auburn University’s efforts to leverage our purchasing power to help transform our food system, support our local food economy, and enhance the educational experience for our students. In addition, Tiger Dining strives to improve dining operations to reduce negative environmental impacts on campus. Together these efforts boost our local economy, improve personal well-being, and reduce risks to our environment (Auburn University Office of Sustainability, 2020).

The basic elements of food sustainability in a college or university campus context must account for the ecological, economic and socially just or equitable aspects of food… put into more descriptive terms, campus food choices should be nutritious, appropriately sourced (eco-friendly), affordable and accessible. Those who seek to have a meal on campus ought easily to find options that reflect these characteristics (White, 2020).

Understanding student food insecurity can be essential in creating plans towards helping students and supporting sustainability at colleges and universities. For many students, food insecurity may only last for a brief time but unfortunately, hunger can continue for many students having a continued hinderance on their college experience. As we have seen within the COVID-19 pandemic, change can happen suddenly and dramatically, creating great uncertainty. Food insecurity should not be something that continues. Colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to assist students in dealing with food insecurity through a multitude of campus initiatives such as, campus food pantries and meal donation or voucher programs. One such program is Swipe Out Hunger which is a meal donation program that empowers students to give back to their community by donating unused meal swipes to students in needs (Swipe Out Hunger, 2020). The growth of such programs support the severity of food insecurity and push for colleges and universities to address food insecurity issues. Colleges and universities must continue to address food insecurity by diversifying student resources to acknowledge the presence of food insecurity. It is evident that food insecurity is increasingly becoming a larger issue and in order to improve sustainability, colleges and universities must be innovative and committed to their students. Moreover, students’ input is critical as campuses have various campus cultures addressing these matters.

Colorful brand logo of the Cross Cultural Center for Excellence.
Logo of the Cross-Cultural Center for Excellence.

With the return of students on campus since the hasty departure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that colleges and universities take heed the needs of students dealing with real or potential fears of being back on campus amidst several factors such as food insecurity, homelessness, and financial barriers.

Image of the office entrance of the Cross-Cultural Center for Excellence.
Image of the office entrance of the Cross-Cultural Center for Excellence.

One way Auburn is helping students deal with creating sustainable needs is through the Office of Inclusion and Diversity’s Cross-Cultural Center for Excellence also known as the CCCE for short. The CCCE provides students with the opportunity to learn more about establishing sustainability solutions in developing inclusive communities. Through an array of programs and activities, students are able to engage in dialogue, develop leadership skills, and build collaborative relationships that will help them be effective in an increasingly global society. The CCCE is located on the 2nd floor in Suite 2103 in the Auburn University Student Center.

In concluding, colleges and universities must continue to provide sustainability solutions that will aid in dismantling these barriers that hinder many students from attaining their degree. The conversations about food insecurity and sustainability have gained national attention yet, there is still more work to be done in order to fully create equitable sustainable campus communities. Additional thinking on how to combat food insecurity amidst various other issues students face will be imperative in pushing more sustainable efforts in the near future.


Swipe Out Hunger (2020). Our Work. Retrieved from

The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice (2018). “Projects.” Retrieved from

United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. (2019). Definitions of food security. Retrieved from

White, S.S. (2014), “Campus sustainability plans in the United States: where, what and how to evaluate?”, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 228-241.

White, S.S. (2020), “Student food insecurity and the social equity pillar of campus sustainability”, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 21 No. 5, pp. 861-875

Post contributed by Sean Hembrick, Coordinator for Equity and Inclusive Excellence, Office of Inclusion & Diversity

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Small children poking at and exploring the large, brown trunk of the sequoia tree.
Children drawn to a large Sequoia tree.

Sometimes, when we have had enough, want to reduce some stress, just need to get away from it all – we go for a walk, or a run, or a hike, or a bike. We go outside. Sometimes we seek a challenge and adventure. We go outside. Other times it is the pull of nature, the quite breeze, the cool shaded forest, a dip in a stream or lake, peace and quiet, the chance to see wildlife and connect with nature that draws us outside. It’s also the social connections; BBQ and picnicking in the park, walking the trails, the trips with family, learning to fish or hunt, the summer camp with friends, or the long quiet walk with a new friend.

It is about that favorite outdoor place.

Think about that place…… Where is it? Why is it special? Who did you build those memories with? How old were you? What was it like? A mountain, a forest, a beach, a park, a river, a lake, your family property…. Close your eyes – what did it sound like? What do you hear? Was it hot, cold, quiet, frantic… How did it make you feel? How has it contributed to who you are today?

Visitor reading an interpretive sign along a trail.
A visitor learns more about the surrounding area through an interpretive sign.

When we think of outdoor recreation it is often about the activities we do. We think of hiking, camping, mountain biking, hunting, fishing, even spelunking. It can also be time at the park, walking through greenspace, jogging on a trail, or just biking down a trail or rural road. Outdoor recreation is what we choose to do with our free time in the outdoors, primarily in the natural environment. Our first models for managing outdoor recreation were simply to provide quality environments for different recreation activities to take place. It was a bit simplistic and didn’t recognize the full contribution of outdoor recreation to our lives.

Our current models take a social psychological perspective. We look at how individuals are motivated to conduct that activity in their preferred setting with their chosen companions to achieve beneficial outcomes. That may sound like a bit of gobbly-gook, but what it means is that: when I am stressed about a test and I need to get away and burn some steam (my motivation) I choose to go to Chewacla and mountain bike because it is close by and has amazing trails (setting preference) with a couple of friends who can keep up with the pace I want to ride (companions). So we go, we ride, we get some exercise and burn off some stress, we get our minds clear to be able to get back to studying – and you ace your test. Those were your beneficial outcomes. All because you did a little outdoor recreation.

But the beneficial outcomes didn’t end there. Your friend had to rent a bike form the Auburn Outdoors program so you ended up supporting that program, the managers, and the student staff. You paid an entrance fee to Chewacla State Park and supported the conservation and management of those lands. You bonded more with your fellow riders and de-stressed so you were a lot friendlier to everyone when you got back to campus leading to the outcome of increased social cohesion.  Finally, you aced your test making it more likely you will get a better job and have improved career success!

There are many beneficial outcomes of outdoor recreation that we don’t usually consider. There are the personal and psychological benefits such as building self-esteem, problem solving, and teamwork. Recreation can be a form of stress-management, reducing depression and anxiety, but also leading to challenge, and even self-actualization. We frequently find and/or tie our identity to these recreation activities – to the way we choose to spend our free time (I’m a runner, a hunter, a mountain biker..). We develop our attachment to specific locations – our sense of place. Benefits include improved health, increased strength and fitness, and a reduction in obesity. Additionally, better physical and mental health indirectly leads to lower societal health costs. There are cultural benefits including community identity, reduced alienation, and social support among many others. Direct economic benefits come from purchasing equipment, travel to and from a site, and helping support the staff at the restaurant or brew pub you visit after you’re done. There are also environmental benefits as the protection of land for outdoor recreation is compatible with wildlife and ecosystem conservation.

Outdoor recreation employs over 135,000 people in Alabama and contributes over $14 billion in consumer spending annually. It is big business that significantly contributes to our physical and mental health, toward social cohesion and good social relations, and toward conservation of our environment. All of these are intimately connected to individual and social well-being.

We have amazing settings for outdoor recreation on and near campus and throughout Alabama. In addition to walking (or jogging) across our beautiful campus we have the Donald E. Davis Arboretum for walks in nature and learning about native plants. The School of Forestry and Wildlife manages the Kreher Preserve & Natures Center open for hiking and educational programs just past the fisheries ponds on North College. In addition to Chewacla, Alabama has 21 other State Parks for hiking, biking, fishing, golf and many other activities. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries manages (among other lands) Wildlife Management Areas for hunting and Public Fishing Lakes. There are also a vast assortment of different trails accessible across the state including: Hiking, walking, biking, birding, equestrian, OHV, and even paddling trails. Finally, the SFWS offers a minor in Nature-Based Recreation if this turns out to be a career you want to pursue.

In these trying times there are added levels of stress and isolation. However, we are encouraged to be outside where it is generally easier to maintain a safe distance. So put on a mask, find some companions willing to socially distance, do your daily health check, and hit the trail.

Before you head out to any recreation area, please check for any setting restrictions due to COVID-19.

Post contributed by Wayde Morse, Associate Professor, Conservation Social Scientist, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences

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We are back! Back looks a little different this year, & That’s OK.

Hi everyone – my name is Eric Smith and I am the Director of Health Promotion and Wellness Services. In this role, I get the opportunity to work with amazing students as we try to navigate some challenging health and wellness related issues. I have always appreciated the complicated nature of wellness work, and this year is certainly no different.

A few years back at convocation, I said the following while addressing the incoming class:

“While health and wellness, to some degree, is about receiving the flu shot and sleeping well, it is also so much more. While health and wellness is about nutrition and exercise, we can all probably agree it is so much more. The absence of disease is not exactly health, it just indicates you do not have strep or mono or something even more horrific. Health is a lot more than any of this one thing. To me health is capacity. Your ability to achieve everything you need during a given day or want to over the course of your freshman year is predicted solely on your health capacity. Some days it may be a 10, some days it may be a 7 or a 5 and that’s okay, because chances are your capacity will not be defined by one day, but your ability to bounce back and maintain a healthy optimism for what tomorrow may bring. “

This year, COVID-19 has impacted not only our individual health, but our university’s collective health, and we need your commitment to help maintain and sustain our community’s health capacity. To help build this capacity, I need you to commit to doing these four things every day:

  1. Wear a mask: Everyone knows we need you to wear a mask inside buildings on campus, but that’s also extended to outside if you cannot keep six feet of distance between folks. It’s for your good, my good, and everyone’s public good. Please wear a face-covering.
  2. Keep your distance: We are social creatures! We love Auburn, we care for each other and believe it or not we genuinely enjoy each other’s company. But we also have to respect the boundaries of everyone and keep a little more distance in the lines at Starbucks, or other eateries, sit a little further apart in classrooms, and maybe not walk so close to each other on the concourse. Keeping your individual distance is important, respecting the distance you are giving each other is also important – and this mutual understanding needs to be extended off campus, too.
  3. Complete the health screener everyday: This one is pretty cut and dry, but it’s also pretty simple. Every day before you come to campus or leave your residence hall, log on to AU Access and complete the Guide Safe survey. If your passport is not green, stay home, call the medical clinic for their guidance, and let your professors know you will not make it to class today.
  4. Wash your hands: Here again, nothing too crazy, but we need you to do it. Twenty seconds, recite the Creed, sing a song, whatever you need to do to stay engaged and scrub away! If hand washing isn’t an option, use hand sanitizer and carry a small bottle with you in your bag.

That’s it, that’s the big 4, all for AU. All for the health capacity of our community. Each of you have a role to play and can contribute to the success of this semester by simply doing these four things every day.

Green Dot logo
We.Auburn looks to create a campus culture where all forms of violence are not tolerated.

Some of you may have come in contact with our office through the Green Dot program. Green Dot is our bystander program specifically for sexual violence prevention. This year I need each of you to be a proactive bystander for Covid-19 too. Being an active bystander means recognizing when a situation is potentially harmful and being willing to intervene for the collective well-being of the Auburn community. To promote A Healthier U, this might include:

  • Noticing someone not wearing a mask on campus
  • Someone not keeping their physical distance in class
  • Someone overcrowding a tiger transit
  • A roommate not completing their daily health checker before going to class

When you see these situations know that you have tools at your disposal to help address them. These are the the 3-D’s of bystander response and they are listed below:

  • Direct: address behavior and model appropriate behavior
  • Delegate: find someone who is better positioned or equipped to step in and ask them to intervene
  • Defend: support the bystander who has chosen to intervene, especially when doing so at a personal risk

As we talk about promoting health and being an active bystander its always important to remember that many of Auburn’s students, faculty, and staff are at higher risk for more severe COVID-19 symptoms, and sometimes, we may not always know when others fall into a high-risk category. Be mindful to think about what your comfort level is. Consider the following: who you live with, traveling (recent and upcoming), attending classes, state and regional mandates, who you plan to spend time with during the next 14 days. Respect others’ boundaries and unwillingness to participate in something, especially when it is different form your comfort level. Assessing your own level of risk and defining your personal boundaries can help us all develop us create a larger capacity for health both on campus and off.

I will end this post with the same lines I used to end convocation in the speech mentioned above.

“The creed mentions a spirit that is not afraid. To me what this really refers to is a spirit that is not afraid to stay positive and seek out the good in this world instead of always focusing on the unnecessary and negative. There will be times in your pursuit of personal academic success when you will be stressed out and disgruntled and, in those moments, stay positive, be engaged and remember to breathe a little bit and you’ll make it. Because, I believe a spirit that is not afraid is one that is resilient and stays positive. I believe that your personal and academic success begins and ends with you and is built upon a solid foundation of healthy choices.”

War Eagle y’all!

Post contributed by Eric Smith, Director Health Promotion and Wellness Services

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The Sustainability Compass

Learn about the Sustainability Compass which provides a framework for the four systems conditions needed to achieve sustainability. You can use the compass points, Nature, Economy, Society, and Wellbeing, as a way to understand the connections between our individual and collective actions and the world around us. For more on sustainability, visit our Sustainability 101 page. If you are an educator who wants to ‘educate and act for a sustainable future’, visit the Compass Education organisation.


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