PHOTO: Katie Pratt, UK Agricultural Communications
When some people think of others going hungry, they don’t necessarily think it is a local problem, but there are many people in Kentucky and Lexington who face food insecurity every day. To help raise awareness of this issue, students in the University of Kentucky Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition recently hosted a meal packing event.
According the Kentucky Association of Food Banks, over 750,000 Kentuckians—17 percent of the population—are faced with hunger. For children, that number increases to one in four.
“Hunger is a solvable issue,” said Liz Renzaglia, the UK Student Dietetic and Nutrition Association co-chair for hunger. “It’s an issue of inequitable distribution of resources and power. When we can start bringing those resources to people, it’s amazing.”
The students decided to do the event after they participated in a similar event at Auburn University as a part of the Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit. Christa Childers, the association’s president, reached out to Meals of Hope to get started. Meals of Hope provides food for the event and connects groups to local food pantries. To pay for the cost of packaging and shipping the meals, the students held bake sales, an online fundraiser and smoothie bike smoothie sales, where students made their own smoothies by pedaling a stationary bicycle. The UK event was held on the Lexington campus in Erikson Hall.
“This event has been 100 percent student driven,” said Tammy Stephenson, the group’s faculty adviser and senior lecturer in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “We are so excited that combating hunger is something that’s interesting to our students and that they will dedicate an evening to come here and participate.”
Within two hours, UK students packaged enough meals to feed 10,000 Central and Eastern Kentuckians.
The association has an interest in fighting hunger at not only the local level, but at the international level. For many years, the group has been one of several UK organizations to collect money to feed children at the Kentucky Academy, a kindergarten in Ghana. To kick off the meal packing event, association members presented a $700 check to Janet Mullins, UK associate extension professor of dietetics and human nutrition, to go toward lunches for the academy’s children. Their donation will provide lunch for every child in the academy for two months.
“Participating in events like this, giving to the Kentucky Academy and attending Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit can be life changing for these students, especially when they realize they have the expertise to solve world hunger,” Mullins said.
Tammy Stephenson, 859-257-2353; Janet Mullins, 859-257-3800