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Panelists Speak to Students about Hunger Relief and Corporate Social Responsibility

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The Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI), in partnership with Bank of America and Net Impact, continued its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Series on April 12 at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. Undergraduate and graduate students had the opportunity to hear about the importance of food security and the necessity of sustainable hunger relief programs from distinguished panelists – ranging from the CEO of D.C. Central Kitchen to the president and CEO of Feeding America.

The event, moderated by Kerry Sullivan, president of Bank of America’s Charitable Foundation,  highlighted devastating statistics about hunger in America, including how nearly 6 percent, or 7 million households, are classified as low food security zones. Currently in D.C., 13.2 percent of households are within the low food security range, more than double the national average.

“Approximately 800 million people are affected by hunger each and every day, 45.6 million in the U.S. and 90,000 here in D.C.,” Sullivan said. “Hunger is a national, local, and global issue. It’s pervasive and something we need to tackle.”

Allan Jury, vice president of public policy for World Food Program USA, said, despite the staggering statistics, the overall picture has improved globally.

“We have reduced hunger by nearly 200 million people,” Jury said. “The World Food Program assists 80 million people and most are from conflict affected areas. Emergency response and asset building, like creating community-based safety nets or developing food markets, are crucial to dealing with these problems.”

All of the panelists agreed that structural and institutional changes are needed to improve hunger relief overall.

“Right now, we have enough food in America to feed the world, but there are 46 million people facing hunger. That’s unacceptable,” said Diana Aviv, president and CEO of Feeding America. “We just don’t have the methods of distribution and the political power to make it work. We can’t do it alone.”

Michael Curtin is the CEO of D.C. Central Kitchen, which provides 5,000 free meals every day and operates a culinary training program for unemployed men and women.

“[At D.C. Central Kitchen] we have created opportunities to break the cycles of addiction, homelessness, and poverty,” Curtin said. “We require 14 weeks of culinary training and the transformation is spectacular. We also require that the organizations we serve re-invest the money we save them in their programs and services. Corporate CSR is vital to move the ball forward.”

While programs and initiatives like these are important steps in solving world hunger, a positive, solutions-focused attitude is critical.

“Hunger is a solvable problem,” Jury said, “but we have to have the right attitude. We must look at 800 million hungry people and say, ‘Well it was 800 million yesterday and it will be 600 million tomorrow.’ Believe it is possible and believe there are solutions out there because there are. That’s how we get to zero hunger. The future is in your hands.”