The good news is I know where I am. Well, that’s only true most of the time, but in reality I’m in a whirlwind of excitement on my fall adventure! Some of you may be following along on my HungerU journey, but it has been a while since I last shared any details with you over my blog, so the just over half-way point of our tour is a great place to pick up where I left off!
Wait, you’re not exactly sure what HungerU is? Let me explain! HungerU is a hunger awareness program that is a special project of Farmers Feeding the World which is an initiative of the Farm Journal Foundation. The program is on its third tour, covering the east coast this fall. I first learned about HungerU when the exhibit came to Cal Poly and I volunteered for the crew as an Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow club officer. After expressing my interest in becoming a part of the tour, I was hired on as a HungerU Crew member in August and began my new adventure September 15! Together, my two HungerU Crew teammates and I are visiting 20 college campuses and the National FFA Convention this fall from New York to Florida. We began at Cornell in Ithaca, NY (which is the last time I updated you…living on the road is a little hectic) and we are making our way down to the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL. What exactly are we? HungerU is a hunger awareness program that visits college campuses to engage with college students about the world hunger crisis and talk about how we can become part of the solution. We want to put an expiration date on hunger, and in order to do that, we know that we must first be aware of the situation.
Students often ask, “What can I do?” Here, I explain to a student that whatever positive action step he takes will help, and I help him identify his action step based on his comfort level of involvement.
Here are the facts: By 2050 we will have about 2 billion more mouths to feed. This begs the question- How will we grow enough food to be able to feed that many people? We believe part of the answer will rely on advanced technology available to the farmers and ranchers in agricultural food production. It’s a tricky conversation to have with most college students, and sometimes, even more so their professors. But it’s one that must be had, because in order to make hunger a memory, we must first stop forgetting about it.
We have traveled from New York to Pennsylvania, to West Virginia, to Delaware, back to New York, to New Jersey, to Maryland, to Virginia, to North Carolina, to South Carolina, and now back up to North Carolina. That’s enough to make a girl dizzy! But it’s worth it. It’s all worth it.
I have been involved in communication my whole life, and now I’m considered a communication professional now that I have a college degree in agricultural communication. But there is nothing that can ever prepare you for what a stranger will approach you to say. Even more so when you are traveling all over heck and back asking and challenging people to engage and speak with you about a severe, depressing, humongous issue. Let me share one situation with you.
At a certain university, a student approached me and said, “I know how to solve the world hunger crisis. I’ve done research!” I inquired, “Okay, shoot.” He said, “Vegetarianism.”
I ran a few thoughts through my head for a quick second after hearing his solution. Easy, Mal the Beef Gal, I said to myself. Let’s play this one out a little differently.
“Tell me about that,” I said, giving me more time to see how I wanted to approach the conversation.
The student went on to tell me how he had won several speech contests with his speech on vegetarianism and how eating only a plant based diet would save the world from starvation.
Instead of pounding him with facts about beef cattle that I knew would refute every “fact” he had against the animal agriculture industry, and cattle in particular, I listened to what he had to say. He was passionate. He was articulate. He was just a little closed minded. So, I made it my mission of the conversation to pry open his mind about hunger and food production in general. First, I congratulated him on winning awards with his speech. I know what that takes, and it’s hard work. Our passions may be different, but passion is passion regardless. And his was meant for good, just like mine is. I looked at this situation from the 30,000 foot view. At least he has passion. At least he has the guts to take a stance on an issue. Yet, by the end of the conversation, together we had decided that it may take more than just a plant based diet to feed 2 billion more people in less that 40 years. I told him to keep his passion alive, and I thanked him for being brave. Because it’s going to take all kinds to solve the hunger issue. That student walked away from the HungerU exhibit feeling good about himself, which he had every right too, and eager to do more research about a diversified diet. But it was my hope that I continued to help inspire him to seek change. Vegetarian or not, in this situation, we’re on the same team: being part of the solution to world hunger.
Facts are forever changing as statistics do. We have it in our power to change those statistics to eliminate world hunger. We just have to start now. My Red Meat Mafia shirt helps me initiate conversations about agriculture when I am away from the HungerU exhibit. Have you got yours yet?
We know that you or I cannot simply wave a magic wand over the situation and make it all go away. Too many people are impacted by hunger for it to disappear over night. But if we all make a conscious effort to waste less food, buy only what we will consume at the grocery store, donate to more canned food drives, volunteer our time to food pantries, and actions like that, eventually we will start to make the ripple effect one that world hunger won’t be able to sustain.
My mission as a HungerU Crew member is to advocate inspiration through education. Inspiration to act, to use your heart for good, and to be the change you wish to see.
If you’d like to keep up with our journey for the next 4 weeks or so that are left of the tour, please check back with our HungerU Blog from the road, and check us out on Facebook and Twitter!
How will you make a difference in the global hunger crisis? Because, like it or not, it is demanding your attention.
As always, thank you for following along on the adventures!
~HungerU Crew Member, Mal the Beef Gal