The Story Behind Universities Fighting World Hunger and the Kansas Hunger Dialogue

February 17, 2015

By Rick McNary, Outreach, Inc.

If I would have let fear and doubt consume me- which it was doing a pretty good job of slapping me around- we would never be hosting the 5th Annual Kansas Hunger Dialogue on March 2 & 3 in Wichita, Kansas. In fact, we never would have had the first one. As Paul Harvey would say, here’s the rest of the story.

Early in my journey in the fight against hunger, I had the privilege of meeting the founders of Universities Fighting World Hunger– Dr. June Henton and Dr. Harriet Giles- of Auburn University. They have been- and still are- two of my biggest heroes in the fight against hunger.

In 2010, I flew to Auburn to brainstorm with June and Harriet about ways to engage universities, colleges, and community colleges in Kansas.  Out of that session came the idea of the Kansas Hunger Dialogue. I asked whom they might know in Kansas that I could run the idea past and they introduced me to Kansas State University’s Provost & VP, Dr. April Mason.

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June taught me to go to as high as I can as fast as I can so I met with Dr. Mason who then introduced me to other leaders through the Kansas Board of Regents. Next, I met with Dr. Doug Penner-the now-retired President of the Kansas Independent Colleges and Matt Lindsey of the Kansas Campus Compact. All gave their support and we put the gears in motion.

We lined up a stellar cast of speakers with Ambassador Tony Hall as our keynote speaker (he also announced his hunger-strike at our conference). We scheduled a conference center in Kansas City and began the heavy-lifting of putting a conference together. One invitee said we’d never be able to pull it off.

Two weeks before the Dialogue, I began to believe her; almost no one had registered. However, we were far too committed to back out and the staff working with me wouldn’t let me give up. I just didn’t sleep for two weeks- oh, me of little faith. Thankfully, June and Harriet assured me that people not registering until the last possible minute was normal and I shouldn’t stress out. Right.

But, they were right; our 1st KHD was a smashing success!  25 universities, colleges, and community colleges sent nearly 90 people!

Since then, we’ve had a dialogue each year and Kansas was the first to form a state-wide collaboration to host the 2013 Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit. Roger Thurow was to be our keynote that year but face-planted on some Chicago ice on his way to the airport so Dr.Alastair Summerlee of University of Guelph pinch-hit. That’s like Mickey Mantle standing in for Babe Ruth; both are amazing!

Furthermore, we wanted this model to be replicable so our friends at Stop Hunger Now worked with North Carolina Campus Compact to host North Carolina Campuses Against Hunger. Then the University of Maine hosted their first one last year as did Walsh University for the state of Ohio.  Plans are currently underway for Dakota Wesleyan to replicate the model in South Dakota later this year. 

The 5th Annual Kansas Hunger Dialogue (KHD) will be in Wichita, Kansas, on March 2 & 3 at Newman University.  Students, faculty, and administrators from more than twenty universities, colleges, and community colleges in the area will convene to have a conversation that matters.  The 2014 KHD was chronicled by the Kansas Leadership Center Journal.

This year, thanks to Outreach, Inc. , our keynote speaker will be the amazing Maria Belding of Pella, Iowa, who is this year’s UFWH Clinton Leadership Award winner as well as Sodexo’s Stephen J. Brady’s STOP Hunger Scholarship Recipient. And she’s a freshman in college!

If you would like to start a Hunger Dialogue your state, feel free to contact me: rick@outreachprogram.org or call me: 316-734-6845.

I can give you great advice about how not to freak out two weeks before the event; I learned from the best.