An Interdisciplinary Approach to the World Hunger Challenge
Will the Midwest Hold the Key to Solving Hunger?
Established in 2014, Monmouth College’s Food Security program is the first multidisciplinary academic venture to emerge from the college’s innovative Triads for Excellence initiative, under which a team of three faculty members from different disciplines is hired to teach, conduct research and raise awareness about an important topical issue of regional, national or international interest.
Consistent with Monmouth’s liberal arts focus, the program takes a “big-picture” view of issues concerning the production and distribution of food, which is quickly emerging as one of the most critical and often controversial topics of our generation.
Food security, which was defined by the 1996 World Food Summit as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life,” will require expertise and resources from a broad range of academic disciplines if it is to be achieved.
Interdisciplinary Faculty Support
The Food Security program is being led by a trio of new faculty members from the disciplines of Economics, Biology and Anthropology/Sociology and augmented by existing faculty from a variety of departments. Examples of multidisciplinary study associated with food security include:
- Economics—Logistical issues with food distribution; impact of government subsidies on farming and biofuels; role of commodity markets on food production.
- Biology—Optimizing the conversion of sunlight into food energy; the nature and implications of genetic modifications of plants; advantages and hazards associated with agrichemicals.
- Anthropology/Sociology—Food as an expression of culture; examination of demographic shifts, changing social mores and practices, and social movements.
Food security has emerged as one of the most critical and often controversial topics of our generation.
Food Security issues, because of their complexity, do not conform to traditional academic categories. Real progress requires a new level of collaboration among faculty and students in the full range of disciplines on campus.
While the proportion of undernourished people globally decreased from 23.2 percent in 1990-92 to 14.9 percent in 2010-12, this still leaves 870 million people—one in eight worldwide—going hungry.
Monmouth is uniquely suited geographically for discussions of food production and distribution.
Monmouth College’s geographic location is uniquely suited for discussions of food production and distribution. Surrounded by prime farmland—its rich soil deposited millennia ago by glaciers—Monmouth lies in the heart of a productive agricultural region. Local food-related industries include a pork processing plant that ships 780 million pounds annually and a 480-acre Monsanto research farm. Nearby transportation hubs include the massive Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad classification yard at Galesburg and the Mississippi River, upon which 60 percent of U.S. grain exports travel by barge.