Food Insecurity, Hunger, make a difference, Reflections

Who am I on this Hunger Awareness journey?

Each of our journeys with hunger is unique. What brought us to passionately want to eradicate hunger is equally so. For me, in the autumn of 2009, I was finding my land legs in my new home at Wichita State University. I joined the faculty here in August 2007 as a professor in the Elliott School of Communication, and the Kansas Health Foundation Distinguished Chair in Strategic Communication. After more than 20 years in Nevada, I had forgotten that it takes a while to acclimate to a new place, but after 1 ½ years, I was feeling pretty settled. My daughter was doing well in school. I was learning the university. It was time to look outside our personal journeys and find something that would feed our souls, something that would allow us to make a positive difference.

The door that opened that autumn was to Numana, Inc.  and I have been committed to this organization ever since.  A colleague asked me to review some early press releases and media articles and offer suggestions. Not being a journalist, I agreed, hesitantly, but also offered to run it by my journalism colleagues. (This is one of the benefits for a social scientist of working in an integrated school of communication. If I don’t have the skills, someone else does.) I gave my feedback on content and my colleague Eric Wilson gave his on format. I was hooked. Rick McNary, founder and CEO of Numana told a compelling story of hungry children in Nicaragua and the idea of starting a “feed children in schools program”.  Children, schools, food… I was in.

My daughter, her youth group, my son, some of my graduate students,  and I took part in the first ever Numana packaging event in El Dorado, Kansas. Almost 4000 volunteers packaged more than 285,000 meals for Haiti that weekend. It was fun, exciting, and invigorating! What was unique about Numana’s effort to “empower people to save the starving” was the hands-on nature of their events. Volunteers rolled up their sleeves, donned plastic aprons, gloves and shower caps and mixed, packaged and prepared the food for shipment to Salvation Army schools in Haiti.  At tables of 12-14 volunteers, rice, soy, freeze dried vegetables, and a 21 vitamin/mineral tablet, a diet specifically designed for the metabolism of people who are starving, were measured into 6-serving bags, vacuum sealed, packed 36 to a box, and loaded on a truck, The truck would carry the food to Norfolk, Virginia, where it would be shipped by boat to Haiti. The food was expected to arrive in 6-8 weeks. Then the earthquake hit and the situation was so much more severe. Our food was airlifted in by the U.S. 82nd Airborne as some of the first food to reach Haiti following the earthquake.

Superbowl weekend, 2010, I hosted WSU Feeds Haiti, again with my daughter and a group of amazing students. Over 3000 volunteers packaged more than 641,000 meals that weekend. I continued to go to events, to offer my support, and in the first year, more than 125,000 volunteers nationwide packaged over 21 million meals at Numana events.

People want to do things that matter, that make a difference, just as I did.

Now my focus has expanded. After the Kansas Hunger Dialogue last March, I also want to understand hunger on the local level. I wanted to know if there’s a problem here on the WSU campus. I believe there is. Again, I brought together students, this time in a Health Communication Seminar, to understand the nature and scoop of hunger and food insecurity on our campus. The response has been phenomenal. Campus-wide support and interest has simply poured in.

On our website,, you will be able to follow the journeys of each of the 8 students in our class. Our goal is to understand and to empower the change that is needed on our campus. This class is, for me, a way to teach what I practice, to use communication capacity, and skills, to empower others. Personally, it also keeps me on my journey to choose to do things that make a difference. I invite you to join us on this journey!

Ambassador Tony Hall, Food Insecurity, Hunger, Hunger strike, make a difference, enters the hunger fast to impact Congressional budget decisions

Dear Friends,

When Congress can seriously debate cutting food aid to pregnant women and children while giving tax breaks to billionaires—and the only question the media asks is whether the cuts are big enough—we have a crisis.

This week progressive faith leaders called for Americans to join an ongoing fast to protest the immoral budget cuts being debated in Washington.

I’m joining the fast along with thousands of people including the leaders of many leading progressive organizations including Will you join too? You can choose to fast for part of a day, a whole day, or until the budget gets passed. Click here to join:

I think that it’s critical that we both understand what hunger is and make our voices heard. Building corporate profits through loopholes and tax breaks while taking away desperately needed services to the most vulnerable in our nation is simply unacceptable.



Ambassador Tony Hall, Food Insecurity, Hunger, Hunger strike, make a difference, Numana Incorporated

I completed my 3 day, water-only fast – what’s next???? Read on!

Dear Friends,

I made it through my 3 day water-only fast with the help of my friend Mara who did it also. It was hard. At times I was light-headed, nauseous, unable to regulate my body temperature (I wore a long sleeved shirt & a hooded sweatshirt when Mara & I went for a walk in 80+ degree weather, then that night I was so hot I couldn’t sleep). I was grumpy & I had a headache most of the time. I was constantly thirsty even though I drank a lot of water every day & my eyes were painfully dry. I noted that my cognitive capacity slowed. It was difficult to concentrate & I was much slower than usual at number & comprehension games like Kakuro & memory games; I couldn’t concentrate to read for more than several paragraphs.

Of course my experience wasn’t like that of an actual food insecure person who doesn’t know where her next meal will come from (Those most affected by hunger in the U.S. are women & children.). I knew I could eat anytime I decided to. I also know that because I’d never really been hungry before, my experience was different than that of someone with chronic hunger. I thought about food constantly; I dreamed about food; my sense of smell was heightened. I smelled food everywhere.

Tonight we broke our fast at a lovely buffet at Picadilly followed by a movie. But in these 3 days I have learned so much. We’re not done though. We’re going to eat “normally” for several days, then we, along with my daughter & some other friends are going to eat on $4 a day (what food stamps provide). This will likely be more challenging than usual as food prices continue to rise. We invite you to join us.

Did you know that if the budget cuts pass 157,000 American children will lose nutrition support from Head Start programs? Not only will they lose support proven to help them perform better in school, they will also be at greater risk of hunger, obesity & malnutrition. I’ll write more about these issues later. None of this is ok with me. In fact, I think it’s immoral that anyone should suffer food insecurity & hunger in the U.S. (or anywhere in the world for that matter). Did you know that an estimated 50 million Americans go to bed hungry every day? This is unacceptable. We invite you to join us if you’d like as we continue to raise our awareness of hunger.

Three things Ambassador Tony Hall recommends on his hunger site:

PRAY: Commit to reflection and prayer at least once per week for the Hunger Fast and for those who will be hurt by Congress’ proposed budget cuts.

FAST: Participate in the Hunger Fast by skipping a meal every day, abstaining from solid food one day per week, or forgoing solid food altogether.
LIVE ON LESS: Stand with 2.1 billion people who survive on less that $2 per day by limiting your food consumption to $2 daily. Or take the food stamp challenge at $4 per day.

This is such an important issue for our nation. I hope you will join me.


Ambassador Tony Hall, Food Insecurity, Hunger, Hunger strike, make a difference, Numana Incorporated

Progress on my 3 day, water-only hunger fast

On March 28, 2011 Ambassador Tony Hall went on a hunger strike to draw attention to the plight of the poor in our nation. Every night 50 million Americans go to bed unsure of when they will eat next. Most of the hungry in the U.S. are women & children. Proposed Congressional funding cuts will hurt these already vulnerable Americans even more at a time when food prices are skyrocketing & expected to continue to do so.

To me this is immoral. A number of groups are joining Ambassador Hall in this protest. I’ve been on a water only fast since Thursday night to raise my own awareness of hunger. I will end this first effort Sunday night. I invite you to join me in any way you might desire.

To access some of Ambassador Hall’s ideas, you can access his site through a link in his article at Click on “Circle of Protection”. Below is also a link to a companion MoveOn effort.

I heard Ambassador Hall speak in March at the KS Hunger Dialogue. In fact, it was at this event that he announced his hunger strike. Many of you may remember that in 1993, then Ohio senator Hall fasted for 22 days as Congress considered the same type of cuts they are considering now.

I invite you to join in this effort if you wish. Just this two days has been very enlightening for me.

Deborah Ballard-Reisch