How To Build Your Own Hunger Awareness Initiative: A Recipe For Success
The WSU Hunger Initiative is the brainchild of Dr. Deborah Ballard-Reisch, Kansas Health Foundation Distinguished Chair in Strategic Communication at Wichita State University. Ideas for the initiative were developed as part of a master’s level course at the university.
We believe this model can be applied at any university and in other contexts to stimulate hunger awareness and investigate hunger-related issues, so we created a five-pillar model to be used to jumpstart similar initiatives. Each of the pillars is part of a dynamic structure, vital to the overall success of the project. For example, the success of the collaboration pillar relies on generating interest through media, creating events to focus efforts and the ability to understand a local community’s hunger needs and issues through academic research.
This strategic planning process is the base of the model. Determine a precise mission statement and develop a plan to reach desired audiences. The mission statement for the WSU Hunger initiative has two precise goals:
- to raise awareness of hunger
- to study the nature and scope of food insecurity on the WSU campus
The plan to reach the desired audiences included social media, traditional media, and events. After deciding on goals and an overall plan, the group developed visual elements to carry the brand into every effort. A compelling logo and a good tagline facilitates a cohesive message. In our case, we created a square logo that could be used for social media avatars and in other scenarios where square was the best shape, and we had a secondary, horizontal logo which is at the top of this page.
Collaborate with members of the community who have an interest in fighting hunger. These could include various university classes and service groups, restaurants and businesses, churches, local food banks and individual volunteers. The following is a list of links to some of the entities involved in the WSU Hunger initiative:
- Wichita State University, specifically the Office of the Provost, the Rhatigan Student Center, and the Elliott School of Communication gave the WSU Hunger initiative tremendous support.
- Numana is a nonprofit hunger relief organization with the mission to empower people to save the starving. Through meal packaging events, Numana sends food to countries where intense insecurity exists.
- SWIPE Out Hunger is a targeted effort by Numana to facilitate state-wide packaging events in celebration of the United Nations World Food Day. The Wichita Hunger initiative was part of the inaugural SWIPE effort in October 2011. 15 other colleges, universities, and junior colleges from across the state participated by organizing their own food packaging events. The Kansas Board of Regents pledged its support of the SWIPE program.
- Sodexo provides food service at Wichita State. The company has a number of hunger-related initiatives which are part of their STOP Hunger program. Sodexo sponsored our dinner event. Sodexo staff volunteered at our food packaging event and then served dinner to our guests that evening.
Apply cost-efficient or free media platforms to spread the word about your initiative. These may include social media outlets including Facebook, Twitter and blog sites such as WordPress. Examples of the WSU Hunger Initiative media campaigns can be found here:
Consider getting local media involved. Create fliers, posters, and press releases to generate interest. We included quick response codes (QRC) in our fliers and posters so tech-savvy members of the WSU community could easily access various web sites by scanning the code with a mobile device such as a smartphone or an iPad.
Contact local media to let them know about your events. The WSU Hunger Initiative attracted local media attention, both creating awareness about hunger in the Wichita community and informing audiences about ways they could get involved.
Organize hunger awareness events in the community, such as awareness dinners, community conversations, food drives, food packaging events and presentations on the initiative. For more information about the WSU Hunger Awareness events held in October 2011, please visit the following links:
- Food Drive for Kansas Food Bank
- Hunger Research Exhibit during Comm Week at Wichita State
- Hunger Awareness Lunch during Comm Week at Wichita State
- SWIPE Out Hunger – Food Packaging Event at Wichita State
- SWIPE Out Hunger Event Page on VolunteerKansas.org
- Dinner & Conversation about Hunger within the WSU Community
Many of the issues surrounding hunger are not fully understood. A university community is the perfect place to take part in engaged scholarship that both investigates and addresses hunger.
Consider creating a university class, allowing students to earn course credit while they participate in the development of your initiative. The WSU initiative allowed students enrolled in a communication courseto develop research skills, create business plans, and in the process, build their resumes. (A hyperlink to our syllabus will be added soon.) Check out the initial survey used to collect data, designed to help researchers learn about hunger within the WSU community. This research has also been shared at the following conferences so far:
- Southwest Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Association Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Capitol Graduate Research Summit in Topeka, Kansas
- Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit in Catacamas City, Honduras
- Kansas Hunger Dialogue in Overland Park, Kansas
To help with your own research initiatives, here is a list of informative websites.
- Food insecurity in the U.S. – USDA report [PDF]
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – Nutrition Assistance Programs
- Feeding America – Map the Meal Gap
- Kansas Food Bank – Hunger Statistics
- Campus Kitchens Project
- Universities Fighting World Hunger
- Kansas Hunger Dialogue
- US Census Bureau
- UNICEF – The State of the World’s Children
- Harvesters Community Food Project
- Numana Gardens
- Volunteering in America
- Volunteer Kansas
Based on our desire to create a sustainable, transferrable initiative, in 2013, we added a 5th pillar to our model emphasizing community engagement. Significant effort in 2013 was directed toward this pillar. Presentations aimed at community engagement include:
- Ulrich Museum Food Desert Panel (March, 2013 Wichita, KS)
- Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit (March, 2013 Overland Park, KS)
- Wiley College: Ethical Student Leadership Conference (January, 2013 Marshall, TX)
- Hutchinson Community College Faculty Senate (November, 2012 Hutchinson, KS)
- Southwestern College: Lunches with Leaders (September, 2012 Winfield, KS)
- Elliott School: Communication Week (October, 2012 Wichita, KS)
- Kansas Hunger Dialogue (March 6, 2012 Overland Park, KS)
- Southwestern College: Health Week (November, 2011 Winfield, KS)
- Elliott School: Communication Week (October, 2011 Wichita, KS)
For more information about our initiative, contact Dr. Deborah Ballard-Reisch at (316) 978-6079 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.