By Cole Leonard, Auburn University
Commemorating the 10th Annual UFWH Summit, people from across the world convened at the University of Guelph this past weekend, Feb. 20-22, for an event that was nothing short of inspirational.
Attendees heard from incredible speakers that represented various organizations, institutions and businesses. Leaders from as far as Ghana and Scotland and as close as Ontario shared their their expertise about everything from global food policy to microfinance. Although these speakers and their topics were different, they carried the unifying theme of how to become a leader in the global effort to ensure that no person is left food-insecure.
Friday’s opening panel included Ajay Markanday, Director for North America from the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); Katherine Schmidt, executive director for the Canadian Food Banks; Dr. Brady Deaton, Sr., Chancellor Emeritus from the University of Missouri and current chair of the prestigious Board for International Food and Agriculture Development (BIFAD); Dr. Brady Deaton, Jr., professor of agricultural economics at the University of Guelph; and Dr. Syvlain Charlebois, from the University of Guelph’s College of Business and Economics. These panelists discussed the roles of businesses, universities and policies, and how each can help achieve global food security.
On Saturday, Alex Moore of DC Central Kitchen shared ideas about how to be a “righteous entrepreneur”; by combining the best of business practices with innovative sustainable solutions, we can help people out of poverty while improving communities. Smaller workshops followed, whose topics ranged from discussing the roles of business and academia to creating local multi-sector initiatives. Another exciting workshop option discussed innovative ways that students can address hunger on their campuses and in their communities.
Summit attendees next got an update on the progress of Presidents United to Solve Hunger (PUSH), a movement of nearly 70 university presidents from six continents committing collective action to solve hunger. The President Clinton Leadership Award was the highlight the Saturday night’s dinner, was given to Maria Rose Belding from American University.
Sunday closed the summit with inspiring talks from Julie Marshall and Joyce Owusu-Dabo. Marshall, Canada’s World Food Programme (WFP) representative, offered insight on the organization’s new tactics, such as cash and vouchers replacing food aid to encourage sustainable food security. Owusu-Dabo discussed the microfinance organization which she founded in her native country of Ghana.
The weekend was as inspiring as it was challenging, and at the close, Alstair Summerlee asked each summit attendee to consider pledging to tangibly make a difference in the fight against hunger during this next year.
It was incredible to witness the dedication of every student present and the overwhelming passion for solving this global issue. Many amazing people are already making a significant difference in the fight. Two speakers, in particular, offered memorable words during the Clinton Award Dinner. The first:
“Don’t give people a platform. Give them a microphone and let their own voices be heard.” – 2015 Clinton Award winner Maria Rose Belding
Internationally, people are aware that hunger exists. However, it can be easy to overlook the food insecure – not only in opposite corners of the world, but also in our own backyards. It can be difficult to comprehend the daily struggle to put a full meal on the dinner table. Belding encouraged an alternative to the more common platform approach: Let us hear their stories. Let us hear their challenges. Let us hear about their lives. “I guarantee that once these personal stories are heard, the listeners will be changed forever,” she said.
“Ending hunger requires each of us to be crazy enough to think that we can.” – 2013 Clinton Award winner Ryan O’Donnell
I believe this thought to be exceptional. There is no doubt that hunger is a multifaceted problem with equally complex solutions. It takes a strong will to engage in such an issue that affects billions of people worldwide. People have been made aware of the problem; now, is the time for solutions. With enough crazy people, we will solve hunger in our lifetime.
The 10th UFWH Summit at the University of Guelph will always be one for the books. It was a gathering of truly incredible people who are working together to solve a global problem. Students, administrators, business leaders and teachers showed inspiring motivation to conquer one of the world’s most serious problems.
As we return to our daily lives, I hope that we each remember what we’ve learned, keep a fire burning in our hearts and, most importantly, remember to be a little bit crazy.