UConn to host food security forum on Oct. 2


The Dodd Auditorium will host the upcoming Food Security Forum (Eric Wang/The Daily Campus)

A student-led Food Security Forum will be held at the University of Connecticut (UConn) on Tuesday, Oct. 2, to initiate a conversation about food insecurity at UConn and college campuses at large.

The event is hosted by UConn Access to Food Effort (U.C.A.F.E.) and funded by the UConn IDEA Grant Program.

Wawa Gatheru, Undergraduate Student Government Vice President, and Abhishek Gupta, UConnPIRG Hunger and Homelessness Chair, received the grant in the 2018 spring semester.

They combined their passion for hunger advocacy and their food insecurity research experience to incite interest and initiative among the UConn community.

“We both come from two different backgrounds in food justice,” said Gatheru. “We saw that there was a lack of data at UConn regarding food insecurity rates.”

Gatheru conducted research on food insecurity on college campuses in an independent study with the nutritional science department, she said.

Gupta conducted research on food insecurity as an intern with UConnPIRG, he said.

U.C.A.F.E. aims to get students more involved and interested in the issue of food insecurity on campus, Gupta said.

“Food insecurity isn’t something that you can just tell by looking at someone, it’s just an experience that someone can really hide and there is a lot of stigma surrounding it,” Gatheru said.

The forum will start a conversation about the issue of food insecurity and amplify the voices of food insecure students at UConn, Gatheru said.

Gupta emphasized the importance of food security initiatives on college campuses.

“This is a place people come to grow and prepare themselves for the future,” Gupta said.

Tuesday’s event will debut two U.C.A.F.E. projects: a survey to assess food insecurity rates at UConn and a locally sourced food pantry.

The survey was developed with the official USDA metric of food insecurity and will launch on the day of the forum, Gatheru said.

The locally sourced food pantry challenges the conventional food aid system that was historically utilized in times of emergency. Food insecure people are now going to shelters and pantries in a more repetitive fashion, but the conventional food aid framework remains, Gatheru said.

“A lot of times the foods that are there are high in fats, high in sugars and aren’t necessarily the food that people should be depending on for their health,” Gatheru said.

Students and faculty who attend the event will learn how prevalent the issue of food insecurity is and that there are ways to combat this issue, Gupta said .

The event will be divided into multiple components. First, Marlene B. Schwartz, Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, will give a brief introduction on the issue of food insecurity in Connecticut, Gatheru said.

A panel discussion and an audience led break-out session will follow, according to the UConn Daily Digest.

Panel experts include Nutrition Outreach Educator at CLiCK Dianisi Torres, assistant professor in nutritional sciences Michael Puglisi, Farzana Zubair of Windham Community Food Network and Founder and Executive Director of Hidden Acres Farm Michelle L. Bickling.

The forum will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Dodd Center Konover Auditorium.

Fiona Brady is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at fiona.brady@uconn.edu.

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