July 21, 2010
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has launched a new initiative to raise awareness about hunger and the availability of food in the community.
The UAB Initiative on Hunger and Food Security, spearheaded by the UAB Office for Service Learning, aims to educate students and the community about the causes of hunger through academic courses, service learning curriculum, campus events, advocacy and partnerships with charitable organizations.
"We are working to unite local organizations that are already fighting hunger and promoting food security locally, statewide, nationally and internationally with faculty through academic programs and student activities," said Norma-May Isakow, director of the UAB Office of Service Learning.
Food security refers to the availability and access to food. A household is considered to be food insecure when there is hunger or a fear of starvation in the home. In 2008, 49.1 million Americans lived in food insecure homes, including 13.3 percent of households in Alabama, according to a 2008 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report on household food insecurity in the United States.
Isakow, along with Heather Lee, program coordinator with the Sparkman Center for Global Health in the UAB School of Public Health, and David Buys, a doctoral student in the UAB Medical Sociology Program, are working together with UAB faculty, staff, campus organizations and local nonprofit groups to organize panel discussions and campus events related to the issue of hunger, as well as visits to community gardens run by various churches in the city of Birmingham. The organizers are already making plans for events for World Food Day, an international observance held on or around Oct. 16, which focuses on issues surrounding the world's food supply.
Faculty also will be encouraged to incorporate issues related to hunger, nutrition and food security into their academic courses to help raise the profile of the connection, Isakow said.
In addition, local nonprofit organizations engaged in issues related to hunger and poverty will be invited to participate in the initiative by becoming a UAB Office of Service Learning Highlighted Community Partner. Through such partnerships, UAB students have the opportunity to volunteer with community organizations as part of service learning courses that integrate academic learning, civic learning and meaningful service in the community. To apply to become a Highlighted Community Partner, visit the UAB Office of Service Learning website at www.uab.edu/service-learning.
"Through this initiative, we want to explore important questions regarding the availability of food," Isakow said. "Is there enough food being grown for everyone? Can people get food? Are there grocery stores in a community and are people getting the proper nutritional intake?
"These are all very relevant factors for achieving a healthier community."
Known for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center and the state of Alabama's largest employer. For more information, please visit www.uab.edu.