Thursday November 17, 2016

University Partners in Food Summit

The University of Dayton will take part in a regional food summit to address the health and community impacts of hunger and the economic benefits of local food production.

The Montgomery County Food Coalition’s seventh annual food summit, “Hungry for Change,” is 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, at the Schuster Center in downtown Dayton.

Organized by County Commissioner Judy Dodge’s office, the summit is co-sponsored by the University of Dayton Hanley Sustainability Institute. The University’s Fitz Center for Leadership in Community also is a partner in the free public event, which is expected to draw more than 200 people. 

University faculty and staff scheduled to present during the summit include Kelly Bohrer, Fitz Center director of community engaged learning; Jeanne Holcomb, assistant professor of sociology; and Diana Cuy Castellanos, assistant professor of health and sport science.

Bohrer said the goal of the summit is to share information with citizens of Montgomery County and surrounding areas about the complex challenges in the Dayton region surrounding food justice and ways to address these challenges, including current community action to take part in.

Dayton ranked as one of the worst metropolitan areas in the U.S. for food hardship in 2015, according to the Food Research and Action Center.

“The event examines a breadth of issues surrounding food justice,” Bohrer said. “The presentations and conversations look at these issues in a systemic way, including problems with food waste, producing more food with urban farming, issues surrounding large-scale commercial farming versus localized food, and food insecurity issues ranging from food access to economic disparities and socio-cultural norms.”

Bohrer said there are more issues surrounding access to food in the Dayton area beyond just the cost or the availability of items.

“There are so many issues with accessibility to food in the Montgomery County area that go beyond affordability and availability of fresh produce,” Bohrer said. “Can people get to the food? Do they have reliable transportation? Do individuals have the skills and resources they need to properly store and cook food? What types of food are readily available and how does it affect our community’s health and well-being when junk food and fast food have become embedded into our everyday culture?”

These and other related issues will be examined during the summit, which is also co-sponsored by Public Health — Dayton & Montgomery County, Five Rivers MetroParks and Partners for the Environment.

“Our mission in the Fitz Center is to cultivate servant leaders and just communities through reciprocal partnerships, engaged learning, and scholarship,” Bohrer said. “We encourage our UD community to be justice-minded citizens who think globally and act locally. Our connection to the food summit is an imperative example of how we can engage in local issues to better our own community.”  

The Fitz Center’s work on food insecurity issues includes being at the table for community conversations and work on this issue and facilitating sustainable partnerships between faculty and community for collective impact work. This includes connecting faculty in valuable ways for community engaged learning courses and scholarship. Bohrer has presented for many courses and community organizations on this topic and encourages UD faculty and staff and Fitz Center students to become actively involved on this issue. She also co-teaches an upper level sustainability course in which many of her students work on food insecurity projects that have been identified and defined by the community.

The Hanley Sustainability Institute has worked to address Dayton’s food insecurity issue by partnering with local non-profit organizations East End Community Services and Mission of Mary Cooperative to develop Lincoln Hill Gardens — a sustainable, multipurpose urban agriculture and community green space within Dayton’s Twin Towers Neighborhood. 

Located less than two miles from the University's campus, Twin Towers is a community where 63 percent of the children live below the poverty level, more than double the statewide average.

"Hanley Sustainability Institute is pleased to support community conversations that connect to our three emerging priorities in energy and sustainable solutions, water resource initiatives and local food insecurity projects,” said Don Pair, College of Arts and Sciences associate dean for interdisciplinary research and experiential initiatives, and acting head of the Institute.

For more information about the food summit, contact Emily Bradford at bradforde@mcohio.org or call 937-225-6470.

- Alex Burchfield ’16, communication assistant, College of Arts and Sciences

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