The Office of Sustainability held a World Food Day event called "Food Insecurity in the Lehigh Valley" on Oct. 20, 2017, in Rathbone Dining Hall. Ahart’s Market on Montclair Avenue is one of the only grocery stores that is easily accessible to South Side residents. (Ana Isabela Madrigal/B&W Staff)

World Food Day event promotes food insecurity awareness


To honor the United Nations’ World Food Day and advocate for local and global food security, the Office of Sustainability hosts its own World Food Day event each year on Lehigh’s campus.

The UN designates Oct. 16 as World Food Day, but because the day fell during Pacing Break this year, the Office of Sustainability held its event Oct. 20 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Rathbone Dining Hall.

More than 150 countries participate in World Food Day events, which promote awareness and action to ensure food security across the globe. Each year, the UN chooses a different theme in an effort to educate the public about a variety of food-related issues occurring across the world.

In past years, the theme was centered around preventing food waste.

Last year, to adapt the theme for Lehigh’s campus, members from the Office of Sustainability set up in Lower Court and Rathbone and awarded students and faculty with a raffle ticket for a prize if they didn’t have any food left on their plates after a meal. They hoped to encourage and reward mindfulness about food waste.

This year’s international theme was “changing the future of migration by investing in food security and rural development.”

“Within the context of our theme for World Food Day, food insecurity is an important issue, especially at Lehigh,” said Victoria Interra, the Office of Sustainability’s graduate student assistant. “When we go to the dining hall, we load up on a lot of food and end up throwing it out when there are people in the area who need it. Being aware — where does our food come from? How are we consuming our food, and how can we do that in a sustainable manner?”

In the three public schools surrounding Lehigh, 89 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch at Broughal Middle School, 92 percent are eligible at Donegan Elementary School and 79 percent are eligible at Fountain Hill Elementary School, according to United Way’s website.

This is one of the reasons why the Office of Sustainability felt it was important to bring more local awareness to the worldwide theme of food insecurity.

“We wanted to make it relevant to students, faculty and staff here at Lehigh,” said Katharine Targett, the sustainability program manager.

Attendees participated in an interactive map activity, which incorporated statistics regarding food-insecure areas. Students placed pushpins into the map at the locations of their hometowns, which allowed them to visualize and compare their home locations to food insecure areas.

“This map was a really important way to help educate and promote awareness to students,” Targett said. “They were able to look at the map and say, ‘OK, we’re in a food insecure area here in South Bethlehem, but what about where I’m from?'”

Targett said one way students can help combat food insecurity near Lehigh is to limit the amount of food they take at a time because they can always return for second helpings.

For the students who hope to get involved in improving food security, the Office of Sustainability promotes volunteering at local soup kitchens, food pantries and organizations, such as South Bethlehem’s New Bethany Ministries.

Targett also encourages students to work with different campus organizations, such as Lehigh’s chapter of the Food Recovery Network. She said students can host food drives or take “perfectly good” excess food from the dining halls to local food pantries and shelters in need.

“Most students who attend Lehigh are food secure — it’s not something that the majority of students personally struggle with,” said Katie Volpe, ’21, a work study student in the Office of Sustainability. “But it’s important to keep in mind that maybe some of our peers, and a lot of people in the local surrounding area, are struggling.”

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