Motivated college students sought to take action to alleviate hunger

The Maine Hunger Dialogue is looking for college students angry that millions of people around the world, and thousands in Maine, do not have enough to eat. And who are motivated to do something about it.

“From Outrage to Action” is the theme of the third annual Maine Hunger Dialogue that opens at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 28, in Jewett Hall at the University of Maine at Augusta.

Before the two-day event ends at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, about 150 students and staff from 20 universities and colleges throughout the state will have packed 10,000 nutritious, nonperishable meals for use by Maine food pantries.

The theme “From Outrage to Action” was adapted from Roger Thurow’s “Outrage and Inspire” blogs that utilize storytelling to bring focus to global hunger, poverty and malnutrition. Thurow is a senior fellow on global food and agriculture at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

“He inspires students and others to get angry at the sheer inconceivable fact that so many are going hungry in the world when there is enough food for everyone. Hunger is a result of lack of political will,” says Frank Wertheim, University of Maine Cooperative Extension educator in York County.

“He encourages us to learn and become outraged at the unnecessary suffering of millions and to channel that outrage into inspiration or, as we have interpreted, action.”

The Maine Hunger Dialogue began in 2014. It grew out of the UMaine Extension Maine Harvest for Hunger program, which since 2000 has donated 2,197,000 pounds of surplus fruits and vegetables to people, soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters in the state.

“The goal of the Maine Hunger Dialogue is to inspire students from the state’s public and private universities and colleges, including community colleges, to learn, share ideas, network and work together to fight hunger across Maine,” says Wertheim.

This year’s speakers — including Karin Lapping, a nutrition specialist with Save the Children based in Washington, D.C.; and Mark Lapping, professor emeritus, Muskie School of Public Service — will present information, engage discussion and seek to inspire participants.

Karin Lapping, whose work has focused on nutrition in the developing world, says many distinctions made in the past between developed and developing contexts are disintegrating.

“It is clear that we need to look locally and globally for innovative solutions to the persistent hunger and malnutrition challenges,” she says. “The Maine Hunger Dialogue will provide just such an opportunity.”

Mark Lapping says hunger is part of the food system landscape of Maine.

“By describing the larger issues confronting our state’s food system we can understand that hunger alleviation must be part of any strategy to address the other concerns which combine to make us so vulnerable,” he says.

From 2012 to 2014, Feeding America found Maine was one of 14 states with a significantly higher household food insecurity rate (16.2 percent) than the U.S. national average (14.3 percent). Maine has an annual gap of 36 million meals — meaning 36 million more meals are needed each year for every household to be food secure.

Dialogue participants will be connected with resources to benefit Mainers who are among the 48 million Americans estimated by Feeding America to be living in food insecure households.

In addition to discussing food insecurity issues, participants will hone skills to design, communicate and launch effective community-supported hunger-alleviation projects.

They’ll build on the success of student projects that originated at the previous two hunger dialogues. Campus teams will formulate project ideas, develop budgets and craft social media messages and verbal pitches. Planning team members will provide coaching and technical assistance.

Organizers seek to award a minimum of 15 $500–$1,000 grants to student campus groups to carry out plans. This year, campus community projects funded by a Hudson Foundation grant will assist immigrant and migrant populations in the state. The groups will be invited to return next fall to share success stories and best practices to inform future efforts to end hunger in Maine and beyond.

At the prior two dialogues at UMaine, 235 faculty and students from 20 college campuses and one high school committed to action plans to address hunger in their respective communities.

Twenty-one campus teams were awarded $500 grants for hunger-alleviation projects that were used to establish or maintain campus food pantries as well as plant campus-based community gardens to produce fresh vegetables for local food pantries and for students with low incomes.

Other projects created campus food recovery networks to redirect cafeteria surplus to local food security organizations, as well as promoted campus hunger awareness and student engagement activities and organized fundraisers that resulted in $2,500 for the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program.

“By focusing on campuses and surrounding communities across the state, students can make a real difference in people’s lives, as well as gain career skills, raise awareness of and work toward ending food insecurity in Maine,” says Wertheim. “Next year, we’ll come back together to share and develop new projects and continue to elevate the effort to reduce food insecurity among our families, neighbors and friends.”

Lisa Morin, coordinator with the Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism at UMaine, says she’s excited support for the event has continued for a third year. “These students want to make a difference and the Maine Hunger Dialogue is helping them to achieve sustainable change,” she says.

The planning team includes UMaine Extension, Maine Campus Compact, faculty and staff from multiple Maine college campuses, businesses and community volunteers. The $25 registration fee ($35 after Oct. 7) includes meals. To register and for more information, visit the Maine Hunger Dialogue website. To request a disability accommodation, contact Theresa Tilton, 207.942.7396,